The Knox County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday, Feb. 16  that it completed a pledge to improve the department’s response to those with a mental health condition in Knox County.

The pledge is part of an initiative called the One Mind Campaign which was started by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, a professional association for law enforcement that provides training, technical assistance, and recruitment services. To join the One Mind Campaign, law enforcement agencies must pledge to implement four promising practices in a 12-to-36-month period to ensure successful future interactions between police officers and persons with mental health conditions.

The department issued a news release about the program.

In the law enforcement community, people with mental health conditions have become a common focus, with some departments estimating that as many as 20 percent of their calls for service are related to mental health challenges. Knox County Sheriff Tim Carroll made the decision to join the IACP’s One Mind Campaign because of the increasing number of calls for service that involve individuals with mental health conditions throughout Knox County. By completing the One Mind Pledge, the Knox County Sheriff’s Office established a sustainable partnership with local mental health organizations Sweetser and Maine Behavioral Health, developed and implemented a model policy to address deputies’ interactions with those affected by mental health conditions, and ensured that all of their deputies received mental health awareness training, with at least twenty percent of the department completing the more intensive Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) or equivalent crisis response training. The 40-hour Crisis Intervention curriculum is designed to train officers to respond to calls that involve individuals with mental health conditions. The curriculum includes education on various de-escalation techniques and live role-play scenarios of officers responding to persons who need mental health assistance.

“The greatest benefit in taking the One Mind Campaign pledge has been the connections we made with the community and the collaborative partnerships we have established with our local mental health organizations. I am devoted not only to providing a safe and secure community through our law enforcement efforts but also ensuring that our deputies are educated and well trained in the ability to distinguish if a person is experiencing a mental health condition or crisis.The sooner a deputy can determine this, the higher the likelihood an incident will be de-escalated or resolved peacefully. I am proud of the relationships we’ve developed over the recent years with our community partners and I look forward to what our future community will be,” Sheriff Carroll stated in a news release.