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Mich. university awarded $500K for EMS mental health training

The program will give first responders an improved ability to recognize a behavioral health emergency and take “a better course of action so that we have a better resolution”

By Western Michigan University

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Western Michigan University medical school has been awarded a $500,000 grant by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund to develop and implement a comprehensive mental health education program for police officers, EMS and other emergency responders.

The Michigan Crisis Intervention System was born from what the Michigan Health Endowment Fund identified as a need for improved training for first responders who regularly deal with people and patients in the field with acute behavioral health conditions.

“The need is based on increasing encounters with patients experiencing behavioral health problems that may … often result in engagement with the law enforcement and EMS communities,” Dr. Bill Fales, associate professor at the university, said. “Ultimately, the hope is that we can further improve the safety of responders and citizens.”

The grant is the result of a collaborative effort by the medical school, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and Kalamazoo County Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Dr. Robert Satonik, an associate professor in WMed’s Department of Emergency Medicine, said he is hopeful that once MI-CIS is implemented, it will deliver for emergency responders an improved ability to recognize a behavioral health emergency and take “a better course of action so that we have a better resolution and a better outcome for all of those involved.”

With MI-CIS, officials will expand the training to EMS providers and it may eventually be broadened to include 911 dispatchers, corrections officers and hospital emergency department personnel. Dr. Fales said the program will be vertically integrated and include an awareness course for all first responders, as well as intermediate and advanced courses.

MI-CIS will begin December 1 and will run until Nov. 30, 2018. He said officials plan to have the initial MI-CIS awareness course ready to go by June and will roll out the intermediate and advanced courses in the latter part of 2017.

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