File Photo | Lake County Sheriff’s Office

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office said nearly 100% of their sheriff’s deputies have now been trained in crisis intervention to handle people experiencing mental health crises.

Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg said 99% of deputies have successfully completed the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) certification training program.

Idleburg called it a “significant increase” from the 34% of sheriff’s deputies trained when he was sworn in as sheriff.

Those trained as CIT deputies during the week-long certification program received specialized training to help them evaluate various mental health crisis incidents, which include the following: excited delirium, schizophrenia, substance abuse-related disorders, autism spectrum disorder, traumatic brain injury, and PTSD.

Deputies who successfully complete the week-long training course receive a CIT certification and a deep understanding of the law enforcement response to those in mental crisis, according to Lake County Sheriff Spokesman Lt. Christopher Covelli.

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The overall design of the program is based on relationship building and problem-solving capabilities of first responders, mental health professionals and the community.

Covelli said Lake County sheriff’s deputies have utilized their CIT skills numerous times to properly interact with those in mental health crisis and provide the assistance needed, versus the use of force.

“History has taught us that well-trained police officers who listen to and work closely with the community build both trust and credibility. Upon taking office, it was clear we needed to do everything we could to ensure those who interact with the community have top-level training when it comes to mental health,” Idleburg said.

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office continues to train all employees who interact with the public in CIT, Covelli said.

This includes correctional officers, telecommunicators, court security officers and civilian staff. The sheriff’s office has hosted hundreds of police officers from municipal agencies throughout Lake County in the CIT certification courses.

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“CIT certification for law enforcement is a major priority and we are already looking to the future to see what other innovative and dynamic programs we can implement,” Idleburg said.

He said he is having his staff research the feasibility of transitioning their Crisis Outreach and Support Team to a proactive co-responder model. Additional information on the program will be released in the weeks to come.