Fourth annual RESPECT day

Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Donald Creamer, a graduate of Vernon County's Mental Health Court tells his dramatic and heartwarming story to some 40 people, Thursday evening at the Respect Day gathering at the community center. Johannes Brann/Daily Mail

Thursday afternoon saw the fourth annual RESPECT Day at the Franklin P. Norman City/County Community Center. This event is a partnership between the local Crisis Intervention Team Coordinating Council, Mid-America Law Enforcement and the RESPECT Institute of Missouri along with many local mental health agencies and providers.

Amanda Fisher, director of in-home serves at On My Own Inc., the event's moderator and chair of the planning committee said, "While the 50 or so on hand was a little down from past years, we had excellent speakers, a good number of booths by service providers and even a coordinator from Kansas City's RESPECT Institute, who spoke and a brought a group of clients. Overall, I and the organizing committee think the event did what it set out to do -- share information, raise awareness and inspire.

The gathering featured background on the CIT program and RESPECT Institute, an awareness walk, free pulled pork dinner, poster contest, booths by mental health service providers and door prizes, all for what the event's notice said is the "promotion of mental health awareness and suicide prevention."

The organizing committee sets the event's date during National Suicide Prevention Week, which this year was Sept. 5-11.

Fisher welcomed those in attendance and began with some background.

"In a moment I'll have our current police chief, Casey Crain and one of his CIT officers tell you more about the training, but CIT and RESPECT day was an idea of our previous police chief, Graham Burnley," said Fisher. "He had been CIT trained in the previous department he worked at and brought it here in 2011 and then got a group together, me included, to be part of the team and that led to the first RESPECT Day event in September of 2013."

In 1988, in Memphis, Tenn., there occurred an incident where officers shot and killed a young man who was cutting himself and threatening suicide during a mental health crisis. A backlash led the city's mayor to form a team to find a better way to respond to law enforcement situations involving mental health issues. This effort became the 40 hours of training, which is now known as CIT.

More than 25 years later the concept is being used in major cities across the country as well as in St. Louis, Kansas City, Columbia, Springfield and Joplin. Nevada is Missouri's only small town with police and sheriff's department officers trained in mental health and other forms of crisis intervention along with a team of mental health professionals to provide back-up help in various situations.

Current Police Chief, Casey Crain, introduced Brian Hansen, a CIT trained Nevada police officer, who described an incident where he encountered a woman who was threatening suicide and cutting herself.

"She was brandishing a knife at me and demanded I shoot her," said Hansen. "Without CIT training, it would be easy to imagine how that incident could have ended with her using the knife on someone and herself, or me being forced to shoot her. CIT training teaches you to use certain tactics and voice commands to gain control and with it, I was able to disarm the woman with no one being harmed."

The woman was taken into protective custody and transported to receive treatment.

Hanson said, "Until I took CIT training, I had no idea Nevada and this area has all kinds of mental health resources. I want to give a tip of the hat to the Behavioral Health Unit at Nevada Regional Medical Center. That's where I took that individual for evaluation and subsequent admission for psychological treatment. They've got great people there and the person in that incident got the help she needed."

Officer Hansen was awarded, "The Chief's Commendation," in recognition of his excellent police work in that incident.

Local resident, Renée Benedict was the first of four speakers who had received help with their mental health struggles.

"I have had bi-polar disorder for years and may have it for the rest of my life," said Benedict. "But understand this, I live with it but it does not define me. The medications I take enable me to be a mom of some wonderful kids and hold down a full-time job. Like driving down the road in a car, I keep my disorder belted so that I control it but it does not control me."

Shane Wright and Donald Creamer each spoke about the great help they received from Nevada's New Life Shelter and from Vernon County's mental health court.

Between featured speakers was Shane Hirshman from Vernon County's probation and parole office.

"As rare as CIT is in this state, mental health courts are even rarer" "began Hirshman. "There are only five in this state and we are the only one in a small town, rural setting. Having worked closely with it, I can tell you how great it is and I am so grateful for a supervisory justice such as Judge Neal Quitno and for the whole team of providers and resource people, many of whom are in this room."

Mark Seal, coordinator for Kansas City RESPECT Institute spoke of how mental illness is no respecter of age, wealth, social class, ability or gender.

"I can remember when people wouldn't say the word cancer in public; they'd call it 'The Big C' or 'The C Word,' but they wouldn't say cancer," said Seal. "Now people openly talk about it. And we need to move mental health into the open so that we stop stigmatizing people and instead get them the help they need."

Tim Boyd, RESPECT Institute coordinator with On My Own, Inc. said, "As the speakers each said in their own way, and as mental health providers know, a very important component in a person's recovery is the respect they receive from their caregivers, family and other supporters."

The first task that participants took part in after registration was viewing and judging the poster contest in its three categories.

Winners of the 12 and under category are: First, Riley Bobbett; second, Jesse Hill; and tied for third were Riley Sanchee and Leandra Shots.

Winners in the 13-18 category are: First, Alex; second, Shaleah; and third, Rachel. Participants who are receiving health services had their last names withheld.

Winners of the 19 and over category are: First, Kayla Robadee; and second, Jamie Cook.

"We couldn't have done it without all of you and the support of so many who are not here. Let's get rid of the stigma so more receive care, help and are connected to people and resources they need," Fisher said.

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