Improv helps officers train for mental health calls

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Actors will share the stage with local police officers for a unique training exercise aimed at preparing law enforcers to effectively deal with situations involving people with mental illness.

Law enforcement from across Western Massachusetts will take part in the weeklong training that features a unique improvisation session Friday morning with actors from the Royal Berkshire Improv Troupe.

“The actors' reactions are immediate and quick,” says Marilyn Moran, president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Berkshire County. “The improvisation mimics the real life situations police officers everywhere face every day. It's an invaluable part of our CIT training which gives police tools to de-escalate these situations and to keep everyone safe.”

NAMI, a nonprofit group, has offered the Crisis Intervention Training for four years, and a survey of officers who took the training in 2011 revealed an increase in their confidence in handling calls involving people with mental illness.

“I use what I learned in the CIT curriculum constantly,” says Egremont Police Chief Rena Bucknell. “Responding to calls involving people with mental illness is a major part of the job, yet most officers receive only a limited amount of mental health trainging during the academy. CIT gives us all another valuable tool in our tool belt.”

The event will be held at the Main Campus of Berkshire Community College, 1350 West St., Pittsfield, Mass.


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