PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Corvallis Police Department is one of three law enforcement agencies nationwide to pilot a federally developed crisis training program.

According to CPD, the intensive, 40-hour training program is designed to prepare police officers in their response to people experiencing crisis related to behavioral health conditions, as well as intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The program is being developed by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Law enforcement staff from CPD, Albany Police Department and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office began the Crisis Response and Intervention Training course in Corvallis at the end of May.

The announcement said local agencies have been training on crisis response techniques for many years, but this new program represents a more inclusive approach to issues like substance abuse and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Our goal here is to give officers a better understanding and recognition of mental health and disability awareness crisis communications, and to equip them with the latest de-escalation tools that they can take back to their agencies,” said Trevor Anderson, a police officer in Corvallis Police Department’s Community Livability Unit, who helped coordinate the training. “We also want to connect law enforcement staff with resources in the community. It’s important for officers to understand that they are not an island, and there are local resources they can call on during a crisis response.”

According to Corvallis police, the curriculum is focused on topics such as mental health, trauma and post-traumatic stress. Other topics include substance use disorders and intellectual developmental disabilities.

Each module featured trainers and subject matter experts who shared the latest evolving thinking on each of these complex topics, added the announcement. Throughout the five-day training course, instructors and researchers encouraged attendees to provide feedback on the content and practical applicability of the training course.

“There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t have an opportunity to use these tools and techniques,” said Benton County Sheriff’s Deputy Colin Tominey, shortly after participating in a roleplay scenario that featured a series of interactions with an adult with autism.

The training also highlighted the opportunity to make meaningful improvements to the limited array of crisis resources in Corvallis and Benton County — something Tominey understands all too well, noted the department.

“In law enforcement, we have two choices when responding to a person experiencing a crisis: take them to the hospital if they are sick or a danger to themselves or take them to jail if they are committing a crime,” Tominey explained. “We need additional resources, like a drop-in crisis center and support programs, to give us that viable third option.”

The training course was developed by researchers from the University of Cincinnati and facilitated by Policy Research Associates, a consulting firm focused on behavioral health issues, according to CPD.

Key local partners included The Arc of Benton County as well as the Benton County Health Department.

Moving forward, added the agency, the instructors will refine the curriculum using data and feedback gathered in Corvallis and the other two pilot sites — Pittsburgh and Rapid City, South Dakota. The eventual goal for the program is to offer the training nationwide so that law enforcement agencies around the country.

Corvallis’ federally-designed crisis intervention program comes as Eugene’s CAHOOTS program and Portland’s Street Response Team make headlines as models for alternatives to policing during a mental health crisis.

For more information on the program, click here.