Cheyenne Police Officers Receive Mental Health Training

CHEYENNE – On a daily basis, Cheyenne Police Department officers deal with community members experiencing a mental illness or crisis.

So this week, officers and first responders from around the state are gathered here to receive 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Training.

“I think it’s really important training for our officers because it teaches them the skills of de-escalating,” Cheyenne Police Chief Brian Kozak said Monday. “We always like to talk with someone and resolve it that way (rather) than use force.”

CPD is hosting the 40-hour training this week, in partnership with Cheyenne Regional Medical Center’s Behavioral Health Services and Peak Wellness.

The primary goal of the program is to teach first responders how to better respond to situations in which people are experiencing a mental health crisis.

“Of course, in our job, we’re dealing with people with mental health issues – whether that’s personality disorders, thought disorders, PTSD, suicidal thoughts,” CPD spokesman Officer Dan Long said.

“We see mental health issues with all sorts of different crimes, whether its public intoxication, assaults – anything in between,” he added.

Long said first responders from around the state are attending the training, to include employees of the local Veterans Affairs Medical Center and dispatch center, the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department, the state Department of Health’s Prevention Management Office and Sheridan Police Department.

Long said Cheyenne-based school resource officers also are attending the training to learn how to better handle students with mental health concerns, such as suicidal thoughts.

The training features in-depth discussions of various types of mental health issues, such as mood and thought disorders, personality disorders, PTSD, suicide and mental disabilities.

It also teaches responders communication and de-escalation skills and encourages partnerships between law enforcement and community agencies, such as the National Alliance for Mental Illness.

“We’ve had a (Crisis Intervention Team) program here for the last several years, and so we’re adding more officers to the CIT program,” Kozak said, noting that “this really just helps us have more availability of specially trained officers on the street.”

Long said that since the department formed its Crisis Intervention Team, there have been two other 40-hour training sessions held here.

What makes this year different is that Crisis Intervention Training is going to become part of the police department’s annual training curriculum.

For the first time, every officer will receive four hours of training dedicated to crisis intervention.

“This is something that is not currently taught at the police academy, so that’s why we felt it was important to include in our curriculum that we teach on an annual basis,” Kozak said.