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Bend PD 'Crisis Team' on front lines of suicide calls

By Dan McCarthy
Published On: Aug 21 2014 03:37:43 AM CDT

Leaders of the Crisis Intervention Team spoke at Wednesday night's City Council meeting. NewsChannel 21's Dan McCarthy looks into the role they place when lives are at risk.

BEND, Ore. -

When a threat of suicide is called into the Bend Police Department, the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is normally the first on scene to manage the situation.  

What separates CIT officers from the rest of the force isn't what's in the holster, but training and knowledge to better help those with mental illness.

"Certain behaviors or certain keys that a normal officer wouldn't pick up on, we're trained to deal with those situations," Sgt. Devin Lewis said outside City Hall, where Bend councilors got a briefing on the team Wednesday night.

"We're able to hopefully reach that person and deescalate the situation," Lewis said.

Officers receive 40 hours of training to gain a better understanding of the different types of illnesses and suicide threats.   

"The job is always to remove the threat level to anyone's life," said Katherine Benson of the Suicide Prevention Task Force in Deschutes County.  

"So whether that's just one person's life from suicide, or another person to lead to homicide, they're trained in both," she said.

At the council meeting, two CIT officers made a presentation on the importance and impact of the program on the community.  

The program has been in Bend since 2010, funded by grants.

Lewis said he hopes that all officers will have the opportunity to undergo CIT training.  

"We realize that it's one of the biggest, if not the biggest, things that we have to deal with in the future of law enforcement," he said. "And we're hoping to secure (more grant) funding so we can be ahead of the curve on this."

That's a hope echoed by those in the suicide prevention field.  

"It doesn't just feel like police intervention (on a suicide attempt)," Benson said. "It adds a human aspect of caring into the intervention."

The 24-hour Crisis Line for Deschutes County is 541-322-7500.  National Suicide Prevention Week is September 8-14th.

More information on Bend's CIT program is available in a city video here

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