Officers honored for work in mental health situations

More than 15 criminal investigations officers were recognized and received distinguished honors at the recent Crisis Intervention Team Awards ceremony at the Madison County Sheriff's Office.

As law enforcement has a whole has begun trying to change its approach to mental health issues, made law enforcement rethink how they pursue and interact with subjects when being dispatched out. The CIT was created to train first responders on how to effectively deal with a person who may be dealing with a mental health crisis.

CIT is comprised of city and county first responders including the Madison County General Hospital Security. Together, these local agencies identify potential mental illness-related situations and determines the appropriate resources for a person who may be in a mental health crisis situation.

Sergeant Chris Gilley, the trainer at the Madison County Jail awarded three correctional officers with the Emma Long Award. These recipients were Toni Delrosa, Jason Lewis and Tamara Taylor.

Emma Long was the first mental health liaison between Pathways and law enforcement in Madison County.

"She was a wonderful lady," said Gilley. "She worked with Pathways and always kept high standards. The officers who were chosen today, exemplifies those CIT standards she had set."

Mental health is a growing issue. According to the statistics of Mental Health America, Tennessee ranks 14 with about 19% of people dealing with a mental illness.

Each member of the CIT team has to undergo a 40-hour training program that helps them to approach and successfully deal with someone who may have a mental illness. This program is optional but recommended for the responders to attend.

"It feels good to be recognized," Delarosa said. "I work hard and do my best when dealing with people. I am so thankful the good Lord has me in a position to help others."

Delarosa has been working in corrections for over 15 years and enjoys what she does. She talked about Emma Long and how she was very easy to talk to. She remembered Long always encouraging her.

"I wanted to take this training to be more effective," Willis said. "I deal with people everyday. Jail doesn't mean the best solution for every situation."

Correctional Officer, Tamara Taylor, has worked in the jail annex for 21 years was also recognized.

CIT is ready to help others train and gain the skills needed to make all situations better. For more information on how to participate in this program, contact the Madison County Sheriff’s Office at 731-423-6000.

This article originally appeared on Jackson Sun: C.I.T., mental health, Madison County