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First Responders Learn About Mental Health

JESSUP — Police officers in Lackawanna County are learning something new this week called “crisis intervention training.” That crisis interven...

JESSUP -- Police officers in Lackawanna County are learning something new this week called "crisis intervention training."

That crisis intervention training is being held at the Lackawanna County 911 center all week.

It began in 2010, the year after a woman with schizophrenia was shot and killed by police in Scranton.

Now police officers, EMTs, and corrections officers are learning ways to prevent incidents like that from happening.

These first responders have taken desk jobs this week protecting and serving as students at Lackawanna County's seventh annual Crisis Intervention Training or CIT.

They're learning to better handle situations where someone is having a mental health crisis.

"You know, we're learning about the different diagnoses in the mental health field, and they're not all the same. Some techniques work with some diagnoses and some techniques work with others," said Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. William Wagner.

That's something Jan Mroz and his wife Dorothy, along with Jim and Marie Scott know all too well.

Both families have sons with mental illness. Both sons have had encounters with police that turned out well and led to treatment.

"It works much, much better, as they're getting trained in this program to diffuse the situation, calm them down, and get them into treatment," Jim Scott said.

The Scotts and the Mrozs represent a group called "NAMI" the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Their stories aren't easy to share, but they do it each year at the crisis intervention training.

"Since it's been inaugurated, there have been a number of times that CIT officers have prevented things like 'suicide by cop,'" said Jan Mroz. "It's very good to see that happen."

"When we have NAMI members call us up and say, 'my friend is in trouble and needs the police but I'm afraid to call them because they're a threat to themselves, but I'm afraid to call them,' we tell them to request a CIT officer. They will know how to do it; they will know how to handle it," Dorothy Mroz added.

Crisis Intervention Training is voluntary for first responders and they come from all over the northeast.

The officers who run the training say in its seven years, they've trained more than half of the police officers in Scranton.

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