New Facility Will Help First Responders Statewide with Crisis Intervention Training

July 04, 2018 10:37 PM

A new facility will make it easier for first responders to learn how to deal with people in crisis.

Early planning puts the $13 million SMART Center in Dakota County and it's expected to have statewide impact. 


Experts say calls for suicide and deaths by suicide are up in Minnesota.

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"In Minnesota, it's gone from about 400 people in 2001 to close to 800 last year so we need to make sure officers know how to respond," said Sue Abderholden, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Health Minnesota. "We are going to have first responders responding to more suicide attempts."

Officers are getting a better handle on how to interact with those having a mental health issue. Last year, the state approved $24 million to cover four years worth of training.

A new state law requires law enforcement to have crisis intervention training, or CIT. But the problem for some departments, especially smaller ones, is where to have it. Now funding is in place to make this a reality for not just law enforcement but all Minnesota first responders.

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"We had the money coming but we didn't have a space for that training to occur," said Dakota County Sheriff Tim Leslie. 

Now work is underway to open the Safety and Mental Health Alternative Response Training Center.

"I think it'll make it easier to provide the CIT training," Abderholden said. 

This Crisis Intervention Training offers real, life-like crisis intervention scenarios. In a partnership with the Minnesota CIT Officer's Association, it offers another layer to the job.

RELATED: St. Paul Police Launch New Unit Focused on Mental Health

"If you can have people who are trained and see misbehaviors and report that to police officers, firefighters or ambulance people that are showing up at a scene I think you're going to take off in the right direction versus the wrong direction," Leslie said.  

Abderholden stresses suicide awareness is at an all-time high.

"We have more people seeking care than ever before," Abderholden said. 

In fact, the Minnesota Sheriff's Association reports as many as half of prisoners in Minnesota are mentally ill.

"It's a societal issue," Leslie said. 

RELATED: Expert: Mental Health Classes in Schools Could Help Address Nationwide Suicide Epidemic

Now with a mix of county and state funding to build this facility, the hope is easier access will give law enforcement, fire, dispatch and EMS personnel across the state another tool to help people in crisis.

"Maybe we can end some of these tragedies we've seen across the United States," Leslie said. 

The facility will likely be in Inver Grove Heights and construction could begin at the end of the year.

Agencies all over Minnesota can have access to the center for this Crisis Intervention Training, but it will also be used for other purposes for Dakota County and surrounding agencies.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis and need someone to speak with contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.


Brett Hoffland

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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