Preventing Tragedy: First Responder Training For Crisis Intervention Held June 5

First Responders at June 5 training in Rio Arriba County Commission Chambers in Española

Preventing Tragedy: First Responder Training For Crisis Intervention Held June 5

ESPAÑOLA- The Rio Arriba Health and Human Services Department (RAHHSD) held a workshop for first responders Friday, June 5, addressing principals of Crisis Intervention. Dr. Troy Rodgers, a psychologist and hostage negotiator with the Albuquerque Police Department discussed ways to modify communication to de-escalate crises based on the types of personalities or mental illnesses a respondent might encounter in the field.

Lauren Reichelt, the Department Director, informed the Valley Daily Post that over 80 officers in Rio Arriba and Los Alamos counties have been trained by RAHHSD in the past year in response to the shooting death of Victor Villalpando. Fifty law enforcement officers have completed an 8 hour Mental Health First Aid training for certification, while 30 police officers and dispatchers have attended a 40 hour Crisis Intervention Training in Albuquerque, also for certification. Reichelt stated that the state Behavioral Health Services Department has renewed her grant, enabling RAHHSD to continue training local law enforcement, dispatchers and First Responders, and to offer advanced classes such as Hostage Negotiation.

Patty Shure and Mary Shoemaker, parents of Victor Vilapando.
They introduced  one of the Mental Health First Aid Trainings in January.
Courtesy image

“A number of really interesting issues were raised at Friday’s training,” said Reichelt. “For example, I learned that dispatchers throughout New Mexico are being incorrectly told that because of HIPPA, they cannot make notes about mental illness diagnoses, thus depriving officers of helpful and possibly life-saving information before they respond to a call. This is something I can work on fixing.” Reichelt stated that she tries to attend trainings with local officers because she learns about systemic loopholes she can work to correct. “Sometimes a small policy change can go a long way toward making our community safer for the police and the public. I also learned at Friday’s training that SWAT teams can use the State Pharmacy Board hotline to learn about prescription medications before responding to a crisis, another tool that can help dispatchers to assist officers to respond more effectively and to avoid the use of force.”

She added, “Our goal is to reduce the number of instances in which officers have to respond with force by giving them other tools.”

RAHHSD will be holding a two-day Crisis Intervention training for civilians, including teachers and those who work with youth June 25 and 26 for CEUs. Anyone interested in participating should call Clarissa at 753-3143 to RSVP.