PRESS RELEASE – December 11, 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Exeter Police Department Response to Persons Affected By Mental Illness: The One Mind Campaign
Exeter, NH. The Exeter Police Department is pleased to announce that they are the first police agency in the State of New Hampshire to have completed a pledge to improve their response to those suffering from mental illness in their community. Mental illness has become a common focus within law enforcement with some departments estimating that approximately 20% of their calls are related to mental health challenges.
The pledge is part of an initiative called the One Mind Campaign started by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), a 30,000 member professional association for law enforcement that provides training, technical assistance, and recruitment services. To join the One Mind Campaign, law enforcement agencies must pledge to implement four promising practices in a 12-36-month period to ensure successful future interactions between police officers and persons with mental illness.
Chief Stephan Poulin joined the International Association of Chiefs of Police’s One Mind Campaign because, “Sadly, it is an issue that our officers and dispatchers are more frequently being called upon to address in our community. Being on the frontline, it is imperative that we do everything that we can to achieve the most positive outcome and to have the training and partnerships to help these people we come into contact with who may be in a crisis or suffering.”
To date in 2020, The Exeter Police have responded to 107 calls regarding mental health issues. Of those, 44 were for people threatening or attempting to die by suicide; tragically there was one report of death by suicide via firearm. The mental health calls typically regard situations involving both diagnosed and undiagnosed individuals and include: responses for destructive or erratic behavior, self-harm (with a razor or knife, or drugs), assault and/or overall concerns from family members or clinicians. Calls also have involved reports of individuals who wished to have an officer release their firearm at them (death by suicide via police).
Exeter Police Sergeant Devin West undertook the internal logistics of the pledge and worked closely and diligently with Seacoast Mental Health Center, Inc.’s (SMHC) Director of Emergency Services, Dennis Walker. As part of the initiative, the department entered into a memorandum of understanding with SMHC and implemented the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale for officers to utilize on scene for proper assessments and to coordinate with SMHC clinicians.
Sgt. West stated, “I am very proud to say that the Exeter Police Department is now the first of four agencies in the State of New Hampshire to complete the One Mind pledge and become a One Mind department. Now every officer, has had mental health training that they can put to use in the field to deescalate situations that could otherwise turn bad. Our relationship with SMHC will continue to strengthen and will benefit the mentally ill that need us the most.”
Director Walker added, “It was an honor training the Exeter Police on using the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale. Chief Poulin and his staff join a growing number of forward-thinking police departments around the country who understand the importance of intervening in a mental health crisis in a way that promotes respect, wellness, and effective intervention. This tool in the hands of police and first responders will save lives.”
Along with establishing a sustainable partnership with the SMHC, the department developed and implemented a policy to address officers’ interactions with those affected by mental illness and ensured that all of their officers received some type of mental health awareness training. Additionally, at least twenty percent of the department has completed more intensive Crisis Intervention Training (CIT).
This 40-hour CIT training is designed to train a team of specialized officers to respond to calls that involve individuals with mental health disorders such as depression or intellectual disability. The curriculum includes education on various de-escalation techniques, as well as live role-play scenarios of officers responding to persons who need mental health assistance.
Chief Poulin says the greatest benefit in adopting all the strategies of the One Mind Campaign pledge has been “our growing partnership with Director Walker and his staff at SMHC, as well as increased training for our staff in this sensitive and very important health issue. Officers and dispatchers can feel confident in their assessments and know how to get the proper resources to help people in their times of crisis.”
The department would also like to recognize and thank SMHC Training Coordinator, Kerry Cromwell, for her pivotal instruction and assistance in completion of the Mental Health First Aid training portion of this goal.
If you or a loved one are in crisis, please call either SMHC 24/7/365 at 603-431-6703 or 603-772-2710 or call 911 for immediate assistance. There is always help available.
Attached photos: Sgt. Devin West at SMHC
Chief Stephan Poulin and Director Dennis Walker at SMHC