The entirety of the Gainesville Police Department will participate in a training program this week that focuses on techniques to help individuals who are dealing with mental illness or substance abuse disorders.
Lt. Justin Martin, training director with the Gainesville Police Department, said the eight-hour Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety program helps officers learn about the signs, symptoms and risk factors of mental illness and addiction.
“It helps us with de-escalation in these situations to know what we are dealing with a little better, and what we can do to help that individual overcome the challenge that they’re facing,” Lt. Martin said.
The program is being held every day this week at Lanier Technical College and is put on by an instructor from the Georgia Public Safety Training Center. Lt. Martin said, 100 percent of the Gainesville Police Department will take the course.
At the end of the day, Lt. Martin said the main goal of the training is to be able to relate to an individual in a crisis and understand what they are going through.
“Our goal is not to necessarily put someone in jail when they need a different type of resource when that resource is available to us,” Lt. Martin said.
The program is just one facet of the training program at the Gainesville Police Department. Other training programs at the agency include crisis intervention training, which is a much longer and more in-depth program.
Lt. Martin said the police department does have a mental health clinician program that also aims to help those going through a crisis. As part of this program, the police department currently has an employed licensed mental health clinician that does follow-ups and can respond in the field when needed.
“We’re really working toward getting a better understanding of these situations and how to help these individuals get to what they need,” Lt. Martin said.