SHERMAN, Texas (KTEN) — Texoma Community Center‘s Mental Crisis Outreach Team frequently responds to crisis calls with law enforcement, but the team is being activated more often in recent months.
“I think last month we had 146 activations for our counties, with the majority of them being in Grayson,” said Whytney Mask, TCC’s director of crisis services. “We’ve gone up about 15 to 20 percent a month on calls with COVID.”
“We have pressurized people out there throughout society; we’re not different in Grayson, Cooke and Fannin counties,” Grayson County Sheriff Tom Watt said. “We’re just trying to de-pressurize those situations, de-escalate so that they don’t spin out of control and avoid a lot of the things that you see going on across the nation.”
This course advances the mental health training officers already receive by looking deeper into disorders and exploring different ways to communicate. The goal is to teach officers how to learn what mental illness they’re dealing with and how to proceed in a way that will de-escalate the situation.
“Law enforcement are your front line guys; they run into folks who are having difficulty with mental illness or substance abuse every single day,” said licensed professional counselor Whitney Redden, who is teaching the course. “So if they only know one way to handle the situation, that’s the way they’re going to handle it.”
Grayson County currently has nine certified mental health peace officers. Sheriff Watt said law enforcement deals with mental health calls more frequently every day.
“This training is just another piece of the puzzle,” he said. “But at the state level, we need more help.”
The 40-hour training session at Grayson College has three different sessions available to all law enforcement in Grayson, Cooke, and Fannin counties, free of charge.