We wish we did not have to be concerned with our loved one’s interactions with the criminal justice system, but we do. Following are two examples where NAMI has been a change-agent to improve the training of those interacting with persons with a mental illness. We should give thanks to leaders who see the need for this training, and to those who educated the leaders to promote change.
NAMI Illinois was hired by the Illinois Department of Corrections to develop a two-day curriculum for its staff. As you are probably aware, many with mental illness end up in prisons due to the lack of treatment and housing options. Here is what John R. Baldwin, Director, has to say about the training we developed: “Illinois Department of Corrections (DOC) appreciates NAMI Illinois’ help in creating training regarding mental illness that will be provided to 11,500 DOC staff members over the remainder of the year. Train-the-Trainers sessions were held January 26/27 involving 150 staff trainers, and they were overwhelmingly positive on the value of the information. The content provides a basic understanding of mental illness that the staff currently does not have, and information that will help DOC become one of the largest providers of mental health services to offenders. Included are examples on role-playing, critical for transferring content into action. We expect to see improvement in treatment of offenders with and without mental illness.”
The Chicago Tribune headline article March 25 “Police ‘de-escalation training – how it could help Chicago’ described the culture change necessary in the 12,000 member Chicago Police Force. In the coming weeks, Chicago police officers will each undergo two days of instruction – one on how to respond to those struggling with mental issues and the other on de-escalation techniques. NAMI Chicago has had a sustained initiative to promote Crisis Intervention Team training (CIT) for Chicago Police officers, and its Executive Director, Alexa James is currently a member of the City of Chicago Police Accountability Task Force. This annual training is new. “One time training, however, is not enough,” said Alexa James, “There have to be continued refresher courses.”