A two-year, $250,000 grant from U.S. Department of Justice will help fund the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office Crisis Intervention Team, Sheriff John D’Agostini announced Wednesday.
The team is a group of patrol division deputies specially trained to identify, interact with and help people who are mentally ill or have special needs. It was developed to reduce unnecessary and potentially dangerous encounters between law enforcement and the mentally ill and to avoid unproductive housing of mentally ill in jail facilities.
In a news release, D’Agostini said he recognized an increasing need for the team and encouraged its expansion when he took office.
In 2012, he made the team a collateral assignment in the patrol division, allowing deputies who also saw the need for the team to get involved and volunteer knowing it would be “additional work with no glamour.”
The team has grown from a full-time sergeant and four intermittent deputies to a lieutenant, two sergeants and 15 deputies working out of the Placerville and South Lake Tahoe offices. Four more deputies are scheduled to attend training for the team this month.
Seven other deputies who are now on different assignments also have received the training, which is certified by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.
“The crisis intervention team serves an important role in attempting to reduce dangerous encounters and recognizing those who may need mental health resources or support,” D’Agostini said.
“Under Lt. Jackie Noren’s leadership we have more than tripled the size of our team.”
In announcing the grant award, the El Dorado County Sheriff’s office identified several of the team’s recent successes.
In one case, an elderly man kept calling 911 saying people and animals were trying to harm him and he was arming himself in preparation. Deputies established a relationship with the man, learned he was a veteran and got him assistance through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
The grant will help the crisis intervention team continue to provide and improve its services.
“The most significant benefit of the grant is the ability for CIT deputies to schedule time to work exclusively on follow-up, home visits and advanced officer training; these are vital in reducing, delaying or preventing mental health crises which cause repeated emergency calls for service,” the sheriff’s news release states.
The grant will help train all El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office deputies, fire and medical first responders and other county employees who have frequent contact with the public in El Dorado and neighboring counties.