Calvary Baptist Church provided the stage in which scenario-based trainings were acted out Wednesday afternoon in the final phase of a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement and mental health professionals.
The training’s main goal is “to support law enforcement professionals in understanding and recognizing a mental health crisis” and to help them consider different ways to respond to achieve the best outcome for community safety, said Kelli Wright, outpatient mental health director for New Directions.
“It builds relationships between mental health and law enforcement so that we can respond together in helping individuals get the help they need,” she said.
During the training, police and mental health workers were confronted with simulated scenarios much like the real situations they face routinely in the community.
Glen Smith played the part of an inmate at the Baker County Jail who was depressed and waging a hunger strike in an attempt to force further investigation of the allegations against him.
Smith, who is in long-term recovery, works as a certified peer mentor with recovering addicts and alcoholics at New Directions. He also is in training to become a certified alcohol and drug counselor.
In his role as an inmate, Smith was approached in one session by Baker County corrections deputies Matt Rosin and Maya Lefever, and Rachael Garner, a mental health clinician with New Directions Northwest.
Garner led the team in speaking calmly to Smith and agreed to help him tell his side of the story of an alleged domestic violence assault, by bringing in an officer to photograph his injuries and to make the photos available to his attorney.
As in each scenario, an observer was on hand to evaluate how well the team members had performed in reaching their goals.
Andria Weber, an alcohol and drug counselor with New Directions, had praise for the calm manner in which the group approached Smith, listened to his concerns and then offered to help him. She cautioned them to be conscious of their stance when approaching a person in a volatile situation. Standing with folded arms is more authoritarian and threatening than an open-handed approach, she advised.
In preparing the teams before they began enacting the seven different scenarios, Wright urged them to keep several things in mind such as working to build rapport and being patient and respectful.
“Try to move out of a crisis into some kind of support,” she encouraged the participants.
The team members each took two turns at leading their groups through the lessons.
In another scenario, Alice Marzano, a New Directions consumer, portrayed a woman whose mother, played by Lisa Raffety, a supported employment specialist for New Directions, acted out her concern for her daughter’s erratic behavior.
In a second time around, deputies Rosin and Lefever adapted their approach, with Rosin taking a chair and Lefever changing her stance to a more relaxed posture. Garner dropped to floor level where Marzano acted out her role as a woman who was frustrated in her belief that she was Jesus, but was not able to turn water into wine.
The calm approach of the team and the mention of a mental health worker with whom Marzano’s character had a good relationship appeared to convince her to calm down and to go with the team to seek help for her condition.
Amy Powell, developmental disabilities program manager for New Directions who was the observer in the room, was impressed with the team members’ efforts to help calm Marzano in her role with their nonthreatening approach and level voices while not buying into her statements about thinking she was Jesus.
Powell also was supportive of the training in general.
“This has been a great thing for our community,” she said.
Marzano added her support as well.
“Community members need to know these things are happening,” she said. “It’s very important we train everybody.”
Marzano, who receives medical insurance through the Oregon Health Plan (OHP), also is a member of the Engage to Empower peer leadership training group at New Directions and serves on the Local Community Advisory Council, which helps guide the Eastern Oregon Coordinated Care Organization (CCO) on how to meet the needs of people enrolled in OHP, and others in the community.
Other New Directions consumers who participated in the simulated scenarios were Albert Rowley and Kristina Gueli.
Wright said she and three more people who had attended a similar training in Umatilla County worked to bring the training to Baker City. The other members of the team are Harmony West, New Directions Crisis Team program manager, and Baker County Sheriff’s Office corrections deputies Micheal Dunn and Joel Texteria.
Wright said the four believed the training was especially important to bring to Baker County because of the increase in the number of mental health crisis calls.
Three years ago, New Directions staffed one crisis response worker in the daytime and one at night. Today, the crisis response team consists of five people.
In 2015, crisis workers recorded 203 encounters. During the first six months of 2019, that number had already hit 585, Wright said.
Just as they did during Wednesday’s training, the goal is for mental health and law enforcement professionals to work together.
“We each have different roles and we’re looking at how we support each other in that,” Wright said.
The joint training addressed dealing with all types of people, including the aging population, veterans, people on the autism spectrum, or those who might be suicidal.
And it helped law enforcement and mental health professionals better understand the barriers that both face in trying to intervene in a mental health crisis.
“We only have authority for this specific piece, law enforcement only has authority for this specific piece and the hospital only has authority for this specific piece,” Wright said.
Graduates of the 40-hour training are:
Baker City Police
Chief Raymond Duman, office manager Phoebe Watchel, officer Koby Essex, Sgt. Wayne Chastain, Sgt. Mike Regan and detective Shannon Regan
Deputies Chad Mills, Matt Rosin, Maja Lefever, Adam Robb and Gabe Maldonado
Mobile Crisis: Benjamin Ashton, Sam Baxter, Rachel Garner and Stacia D’Anna; Colleen Davenport, nurse practitioner; and Heidi Wartena, outpatient program manager
St. Luke’s Eastern Oregon Medical Associates
Michelle Dix, community health worker
Oregon State Police
Sr. Trooper Aaron Dietz of Enterprise