LORAIN, OH (WOIO) - A mental health advocacy organization in Lorain County continues to bridge the gap between police and the mentally ill.
The Lorain County Community Foundation just awarded a $15,000 grant to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Lorain County. NAMI will provide Crisis Intervention Training, known as CIT, to police officers across the county.
"We teach them all about mental illness and the different illnesses, medications that people take, and then how to deal with someone in crisis that might be escalating in behavior that could possibly hurt someone," said Clare Cygan-Young, the executive director of NAMI of Lorain County.
Cygan-Young says with NAMI's help, 230 officers have gone through CIT in the last 14 years.
Police officers are often the first people to respond when mentally ill people need help. She says the focus is on de-escalation.
"It's all handled in a way that's compassionate, kind and yet firm, because it can be a dangerous situation," she said.
Cygan-Young says the biggest challenge is fighting the stigma around mental illness, whether she's dealing with first responders or the general public.
"People don't say to people who have cancer, 'It's your fault, get over it.' It's the same way with this illness. It's an illness, and there's help for people out there," she said.
Scholarships will cover 10 police departments getting CIT training, which is scheduled for this April.