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Police department forms crisis intervention team

More and more these days, police officers are responding to calls involving people with mental illnesses. It’s a national trend, and Rosemount Police Chief Eric Werner said Rosemount’s numbers follow the same line up.

To help appropriately respond to the number of cases involving mental illness, the police department has added a crisis intervention team.

The goal of the team is help de-escalate situations involving individuals with mental illness and to follow up to make sure they have access to the resources they need to avoid situations in the future.

“Our main goal is to help before something happens,” said Werner.

Officers Danielle Waage and Alex Eckstein make up the crisis intervention team. Both officers are known for their compassion and professionalism in crisis situations, said Werner.

When on duty, Waage or Eckstein will be the primary responders to calls — such as threats of suicide — that have been identified as having a mental illness component.

If neither is on duty, the city’s other officers will respond and Waage or Eckstein will follow up with the individuals.

Showing humanity

Eckstein said people in the midst of a crisis are at their worst and need to be shown compassion. He said in dealing with individuals in these situations it’s important to treat them as people and not criminals.

“We don’t always want to bring in the bad guys. We can get through to people and get them the help they need,” he said.

Eckstein said people in the midst of a mental health crisis can be some of the most dangerous people police come into contact with. Many times there are other factors such as drugs or alcohol use in play.

The focus of the crisis team is to help individuals. Eckstein said the Rosemount Police Department has access to the resources and partnerships to help.

In all cases where mental illness plays a role, Eckstein or Waage will follow up with individuals to help connect them with the appropriate resources. Eckstein said the department is working in partnership with the Dakota County Crisis Response Unit, Dakota County Social Services and mental health professionals.

By following up with individuals, Werner said, police can help prevent further issues down the road by making sure the individuals have the necessary resources.

Eckstein and Waage both received specialty training. The two completed a 40-hour intensive training program at the end of 2013.

Werner said the program meets the criteria of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The program, Eckstein said, included training on how to identify mental illness and ways to handle a person in the midst of a crisis. In addition, the program included scenario training and site visits with mental health professionals.

Eckstein said in addition to their own training, he and Waage provided a training session to the other officers in the department.

Overall, Werner said the implementation of the crisis intervention team helps address the growing number of calls that relate to mental illness.

He encouraged residents with concerns to contact the police department with any crisis-related matters. Call 9-1-1 for information from police or to get assistance regarding mental illness resources.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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