In June, Governor Gretchen Whitmer established the Growing Michigan Together Council to develop “a statewide strategy aimed at making Michigan a place everyone wants to call home by attracting and retaining talent, improving education throughout the state, upgrading and modernizing our transportation and water infrastructure to meet 21st century needs, and continuing Michigan’s economic momentum.”
A key focus for Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s new commission studying Michigan’s population loss is defeating the perception that our state can be a dangerous place to live. Policing is part of the problem — both improving response times in some areas and addressing the institutional racial bias that gives some residents well-founded fear of the very people sworn to protect and serve.
At the same time it’s important to note that police departments have moved forward aggressively on Crisis Intervention Training aimed at making sure officers correctly handle mental-health related calls. As the producer of a feature film focused on suicide prevention, I’ve had an opportunity to meet with experts on this subject at suicide prevention conferences and community mental health events across the country.
Many of these law enforcement officers — trying to adapt to the fact that up to half their 911 calls today are mental health related — are in Detroit August 14-16 for the National Crisis Intervention Training Conference. Centered on a 40-hour course, CIT training was created in 1988 by Major Sam Cochran and a Memphis team that has helped transform police departments nationwide.
To get an idea of what CIT means locally consider this fact: Since January, Detroit Police have handled at least 8,667 mental health related calls. Police responded to 899 suicide-in-progress calls and were able to save 898 of those. Thankfully, a new state grant is expanding the city’s CIT program with 11 new crisis intervention officers, as well as 14 neighborhood police officers.
This $3.1 million grant is an encouraging sign for our community and our state that will hopefully inspire other communities to initiate or expand their CIT programs.
Those unable to attend the conference can famliarize themselves with this valuable information to better understand how to effectively communicate with trained mental health professionals during a mental health emergency.
Have a look when you can and share it with your family and colleagues. It will help you be alert to signs that require rapid response during a potential emergency. At a Port Huron screening of Coming Up For Air, I learned from a suicide prevention leader that the number one predictor of a potential suicide attempt is a past attempt.
In conversation after conversation with CIT officers at last year’s Pittsburgh national conference, I also learned that the presence of a gun in the home of someone dealing with mental health challenges presents a clear and present danger. Experts insisted removing that weapon is a critical step to protecting the lives of people who are thinking of harming themselves. And do not underestimate the impact of a sudden loss of a relative or a loved one. This can be a triggering event for someone who is so despondent over this loss that they may consider hurting themselves.
As a participant in this year’s CIT conference, I would like to personally thank each and every one of these crisis intervention training officers for their diligence and commitment to suicide prevention. Yes, our nation has a long way to go to make all communities safer. At the same time, the remarkable success of CIT is saving lives across our state and our nation every single day. Thank you, Sam Cochran, and thank you, CIT International for the many lives that might have been lost without you.
Roger Rapoport’s novel Searching For Patty Hearst (Lexographic Press) is out January 18 in time for the 50th anniversary of her kidnapping (pattyhearst.com). To learn more about Coming Up For Air, visit comingupforairmovie.com.