Dixon Police Department works to train more crisis intervention officers to handle mental health

DIXON (WREX)- The 1000 block of Fargo Avenue in Dixon is now quiet. Monday, officers say they responded to that area for someone experiencing a mental health crisis. 

“Every individual is different, they all suffer from different mental illnesses, or maybe a tragic event that occurred in their life,” said Dixon Police Chief Steven Howell Jr.

Calls like Monday’s call are on the rise in Dixon. The city currently averages 59 mental health crisis calls each year.

In 2017, officers responded to 46 of them. They responded to 68 of them in 2018. So far in 2019, they’ve responded to 63. Those numbers are why the department is working to train more crisis intervention officers.

The 40-hour class takes officers through different scenarios and better trains them for standoffs and other mental health calls.

“When you go there, obviously the first thing is patience and compassion for these individuals,” Chief Howell Jr. added. “We don’t understand what they’re going through.”

Dixon currently has 6-8 crisis intervention officers, including Sgt. Michael Wolfley.

“They (crisis intervention officers) will take the situation over so that we can see it through,” he says. “So that we can assist the person properly and take the time to help them resolve it.”

Along with those trained officers, Dixon also has a crisis prevention team, which is made up of first responders and other mental health professionals. That team aims to prevent mental health situations from happening in the first place by helping people before their thoughts escalate.

Sgt. Wolfley says crisis intervention isn’t for every officer, adding that patience is the key to peacefully resolving a situation.

“We’re going to slow things down,” he said. “Talk to them as much as we can. Keep our distance while we talk to them and make sure they understand we are there to help them.”

If you live in Dixon, Lee County or the surrounding area, there are resources for you to get help.

Sinnissippi Centers, Dixon Office: (815) 284-6611
Sinnissippi Centers 24-hour crisis line: (800) 242-7642

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
National Hopeline Network: (800) 784-7433
National Youth Crisis Hotline: (800)442-4673


James Stratton

James Stratton

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