Police officers of the capital region stop training on mental health calls

TROY – The city’s police department trains its 137 officers to answer 900 mental health calls annually – that’s two to three calls a day – with insight and compassion.

On Friday, about 34 officers from Troy Police Department and other local authorities completed the week-long training program for emotionally disturbed response teams held at Hudson Valley Community College. The specialized training is designed to help officials respond to some of the most difficult and demanding calls they must answer.

“Training is very useful on the road,” said Chief Dan DeWolf during the ceremony in the auditorium of the college’s Bulmer Telecommunications Center.

Cohoes boss Todd Waldin attended to graduate two of his officers. An hour before the afternoon ceremony, Waldin said his department handled a mental health call that involved not only a person in need of help but also a local mental health agency that is working with his department on those situations.

Cohoes officials answer hundreds of mental health calls annually, and the training for officials who previously completed the course has proven invaluable in tackling the challenges that come with each call, Waldin said.

Officials trained as members of the Emotionally District Response Team can work with mental health counselors who are available to provide advice over the phone, said Kathy Coons, Rensselaer County’s mental health commissioner.

“You can respond to mental health calls very quickly,” Coons told the senior year.

In addition to members of the Troy Department, officers from the Sheriff’s Office of Rensselaer County, Waterford, Cohoes, East Greenbush, Rensselaer, Hoosick Falls, Schodack, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Public Safety, and Rensselaer County Probation Service attended.

Troy has trained 80 of its officers through the program. “We need to give them the tools to do that,” said Mayor Patrick Madden of equipping officers to be compassionate, empathetic and understanding when it comes to responding to mental health calls.

Madden and DeWolf said the city and its department are determined to train all officials to respond properly.

“What you just received is the most comprehensive mental health training available to law enforcement in New York State,” said Eric Weaver, executive director of Overcoming The Darkness, LLC and a retired Rochester police sergeant who led the week-long training course.

Troy Capt. Matt Montanino said officers who complete the training program will show respect and compassion to people who are facing mental health issues and need help. The captain and mayor said Troy may be the only state law enforcement agency currently offering this type of training to respond to mental health-related calls.

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