The Evesham Township Police Department has announced that the department has been recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) for establishing best practices within its agency’s policies and procedures when dealing with those affected by mental health issues.
In the law enforcement community, ETPD officials say assisting individuals with mental health issues has become a common focus, with some departments estimating that as many as 20 percent of their calls for service are related to mental health.
In Evesham Township, police say officers responded to more than 1,200 calls for service in 2017 and 2018 that were related to mental health investigations.
Of the 1,200 calls, police say 471 required additional mental health interventions.
Due to these statistics, ETPD Chief Christopher Chew made the decision to join the IACP’s “One Mind Campaign” due to the increased amount of mental health calls in the past several years.
In completing the One Mind Pledge, the Evesham Township Police Department has provided proof of the agency’s established relationship with a local mental health organization, implemented a model policy to address officer’s interactions with those affected by mental health issues and ensured that all staff received comprehensive mental health awareness training, with at least 30 percent of the agency receiving advanced Crisis Intervention Training.
The 40-hour Crisis Intervention curriculum is designed by local agencies to train a team of specialized officers who have the ability to respond to calls that involve individuals with have a change in mental health status.
The curriculum includes education on various de-escalation techniques, as well as live role-play scenarios of officers responding to persons who need mental health assistance.
“The members of the Evesham Township Police Department take great pride in providing professional police services to the residents that we serve,” Chew said. “We are committed as an agency to reduce the unfortunate stigma associated with mental illness while providing that portion of community with services in a respectful, compassionate manner.”
Officials say the department is proud to be one of the first departments in New Jersey to receive this certificate from the IACP. According to officials, the hope is to promote awareness among the community and ensure successful interactions between police officers and persons affected by mental illness.