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De-escalation training for mental health crisis situations
Turning the brain back on

De-escalation training for mental health crisis situations

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The Rolling Hills Community Services Region, of which Crawford County is a member, is providing a “C-3 De-escalation Training” session for law enforcement officers in the eight-county region.

Gary Bellinghausen, an officer with the Carroll Police Department, requested the training session be offered, according to Melissa Drey, who is the crisis services coordinator for Plains Area Mental Health Center.

Plains Area is a mental health services provider for Rolling Hills.

“Dawn Mentzer, CEO for Rolling Hills, said the training session was a great idea and said we should work with the law officer from Carroll and open it up to the whole region,” Drey said.

“We thought it would be of great benefit to all law officers.”

The purpose of the training session is to teach individuals how to de-escalate a person having a mental health crisis.

“It’s how to de-escalate the person from the situation by talking to the person in hopes of keeping the person calm and the situation calm,” she said. “It will maybe help to potentially avoid taking the person to the hospital or avoiding taking the person to the jail.”

There is no cost to any law enforcement official to attend the training session, which will take place on October 14 at the Carroll Rec Center.

About 30 law enforcement officers from the region have signed up for the training so far, Drey said.

Patti Leeds, planning and development officer for the Central Iowa Community Services Region, will be running the training session.

Leeds said C-3 is a “non-hands-on” de-escalation approach.

“Sometimes our law enforcement and some of our providers will learn the hands-on de-escalation and what to do in a situation, but this is not hands-on,” she said.

“It’s about working with the brain rather than against it.”

The session will take about six hours, she said.

“We go through some information about the brain and how the brain functions,” Leeds said. “Sometimes we live in the thinking part of our brain – but when we get escalated we think with the most primitive part of our brain, which is where we see behaviors come out in people: getting very upset, throwing things, hitting, screaming.”

Leeds will teach the attendees how to bring individuals back to the thinking part of their brain – the part of the brain that makes good decisions.

The techniques used were developed through the neurobiology research of Amy Arnsten of the Yale School of Medicine.

“We talk a lot about the people who have experienced trauma and how our brain reacts when we’re triggered and when we begin to escalate,” Leeds said. “We have a lot of really great techniques that are very useable that can help bring people down from escalation.”

Leeds will also show the attendees what to look for in an individual having a mental health crisis.

“We show the physical signs of escalation, the mental signs, the emotional signs,” she said.

“We train on what to look for.”

The training also includes the signs attendees should look for in themselves.

“If you’re law enforcement or a therapist and go into work and have a busy schedule, it helps that person get in touch with their own escalation and prepare for what they need to identify,” she said.

“It helps get emotionally prepared to help other people and how to look at the client’s perspective and our perspective.”

Leeds said the training may also be useful for law enforcement members who are dealing with the stress of the current situation in the country, including COVID-19, protests and riots.

“I think, with law enforcement especially, they’re already probably escalated before they even put on their uniform and go to work,” she said. “In certain parts of our country they don’t know what to expect for the day. I just wonder if they’re not waiting for the next thing to drop.”

Law enforcement officers may be dealing with high anxiety on a daily basis.

“In this training, we talk about anxiety and what that looks like in a person,” Leeds said.

“We’re all under stress,” she said. “My job as a de-escalator is to make sure I’m not getting escalated along with the other person – so I can help to bring them back down and get their brain back online.”

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