18 officers graduate CIT training
By Joe Gorman
One of the 18 law-enforcement officers graduating Friday from crisis intervention training said it has opened his eyes and, he hopes, the eyes of other officers as to how much help can be marshaled to assist someone with mental health problems.
Eric Buente, a deputy with the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office, said in remarks at the graduation ceremony at the downtown YMCA that taking the training has been an eye-opener because of the amount of help that can be offered to a person.
“That’s the one thing I don’t believe that’s conveyed enough to law enforcement,” said Buente, who was one of two graduates who volunteered to address the ceremony and tell those in attendance what they liked about the program.
The officers who graduated Friday come from nine departments in Mahoning County: Beaver, Boardman, Jackson, the sheriff’s office, Mill Creek MetroParks Police, Milton, New Middletown, Struthers and Youngstown.
The training is given by the Mahoning County Mental Health and Recovery Board. The goal is to educate and train officers on how to deal with mentally ill people as well as how to de-escalate conflict.
The other officer who spoke was Sgt. Robery Vukovich of Mill Creek. He said all departments should send their officers to receive the training.
Boardman police Chief Todd Werth said almost half of his officers already have completed the training. He said every shift has at least a couple of officers who graduated from the program, and the goal is to have them respond to calls that require their training or at least be available to back up another officer who is there first.
One of the department’s school resource officers, Phil Merlo, attended the current round of training. He said he likes the training because it gives his officers tools to deal with distraught or mentally ill people in tough situations.
Youngstown police have mandated that all new hires take the training.
Duane Piccirilli, executive director of the mental health board, said the training is given three times a year and the slots usually fill up quickly.