On Monday, school resource officers and Fort Wayne Community Schools administrators and educators began training in a new program designed to assist youth struggling with mental health issues.
The 40-hour, week-long course will build Crisis Intervention Teams for Youth, with training in areas of the basics of mental illnesses, active listening and de-escalation techniques, according to a news release sent from program organizers.
"This is more than training. It is a philosophy and culture change within a community," said School Resource Officer Liza Anglin in the statement. "Having a CIT for Youth component in Allen County is the hope to initiate a proactive response in the community, offer responders additional tools for youth, reduce unnecessary arrests and build trust and confidence within our community."
Fort Wayne is the second of five Hoosier cities to begin the program, said Dottie Davis, FWCS director of security.
About 70 percent of children and teens within the juvenile justice system struggle with a diagnosable psychiatric disorder, according to the release.
Symptoms of a mental health crisis are often mistaken for delinquent behavior in school. CIT-Y leans on close collaboration between law enforcement, schools and mental health providers, according to the release.
The new program is a welcome addition, Davis said. A former deputy chief with the Fort Wayne Police Department, Davis helped implement Fort Wayne’s Crisis Intervention Teams.
The inroads into area mental health treatment created by that program will enable the newly trained CIT-Y members to get children help much faster than if parents tried to do it on their own, Davis said.
An officer could get a child immediately treated at a nearby hospital, whereas making an appointment could take between 30 to 90 days, Davis said.
The focus is based on getting a child or teen help rather than beginning an arrest record, according to the release.
The program is offered in collaboration between Fort Wayne Community Schools, the Fort Wayne Police Department and the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Fort Wayne, Mental Health America of Fort Wayne and Crossroad Child and Family Services, according to the release. Technical assistance provided by NAMI Indiana is made possible by the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction.