By Charles Perez
ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) — Western North Carolina law enforcement and emergency responders are participating in a one-week training program on how to best handle mental health issues in the community and within their own ranks.
The crisis intervention training, provided by Vaya Health, is designed to help first responders handle immediate crisis situations while recognizing their own mental and emotional responses.
Joshua Kujawa, a law enforcement officer who’s participating in the training.
“It’s definitely ahead of its time, because law enforcement trainings in the past, we’re expected to act and come up with a resolution right there on the scene,” said Joshua Kujawa, a law enforcement officer who’s participating in the training. “Sometimes we need to learn and slow things down.”
The training comes at a time when local law enforcement has experienced a depletion in their ranks in the aftermath of the 2020 summer demonstrations. The Asheville demonstrations happened in the wake of the George Floyd killing and lasted several days.
Since that event, 106 members of the Asheville Police Department have resigned and just over half have been replaced. To date, the number of patrol officers is still down 30 percent and crime investigative detectives (CDIs) are also down 39 percent.
Local law enforcement officials have expressed a commitment to the mental health of officers, saying it’s an important ingredient in attracting those who want to serve the community.
According to program administrators, law enforcement officers and first responders experience a higher rate of mental health and addiction issues than the general population.
“Having the strength to actually deal with our emotions, to confront problems instead of avoiding those things is really the way to go,” crisis intervention trainer Bo Hess said.
The program also addresses the psychology of those at the center of crisis situations and the need to de-escalate situations.
Hess said the objective is to “get somebody off of the bridge, out of the car – safe – with no injuries or casualties. We don’t want anyone to lose their lives.”
Hess hopes the training will give law enforcement and first responders some of the support they need while helping to attract the kinds of candidates departments want.
Kujawa couldn’t agree more.
“We need the best people we can get for this job, because this is one job that we can’t compromise,” Kujawa said.
Anyone interested in learning more about the training may visit the Vaya Health website.
Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.