ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. -- The Alamance County Sheriff's Office is working to put all its deputies through crisis intervention training.
"On a daily basis our patrol officers are dealing with folks who are either in a personal crisis or are suffering from a mental health condition or are battling substance abuse problems," explains Sergeant Josh Hayes.
Sgt. Hayes and his partner make up the Sheriff's Office crisis intervention team. Part of what he does is teach other deputies how to respond to mental health calls. Everything from tone, to demeanor to eye contact.
"Put together a really quick, really basic history on a person as far as whether or not they've been diagnosed with a mental illness, whether or not they've seen a mental health professional, whether or not they're taking any medications and whether or not they ever thought of hurting themselves."
The goal with crisis intervention training is to connect people to the help they need.
"We want our officers to be able to recognize mental illness and when appropriate, divert folks out of their jail and out of their emergency department and into the resources that are in the community like RHA."
RHA is one of the main partners the Sheriff's Office works with. It's a health services provider who can further assist those suffering from mental illnesses.
When the team is called in to assist, Sgt. Hayes says they don't have traditional uniforms and they use an unmarked car. They just try to have a normal conversation; not treat people like a criminal.
"There's no hurry to clear one call and go to the next," Sgt. Hayes explains. "So, we've got time to do long term problem solving to help get maybe to the deeper root of problems and issues and help people work through so stuff long term."
Sgt. Hayes says they offer crisis intervention training about 3 times a year. Right now, the Sheriff's Office has about 40 of its more than 100 deputies trained. The goal is to train all of them.
For more information about Alamance County's Stepping Up Initiative, which aims to reduce the number of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system, click here.