WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- More than 200 police officers, teachers, firefighters and other first responders attended crisis training at Westchester County Center on Tuesday.
It's the newest phase of specialized classes proposed last year by County Executive Rob Astorino in response to the fatal school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
The training -- led by specialists and members of the county Departments of Health, Community Mental Health and Public Safety -- is offered free to all Westchester municipalities.
Tuesday's training focused on defusing situations with people who are mentally ill or in emotional distress. It is the latest addition to Astorino’s “Safer Communities” initiative, launched to address violence as a public health issue.
Eric Weaver, a retired Rochester, N.Y., police sergeant who created Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) programs, told the audience that his analysis of police calls found officers were more than twice as likely to get hurt responding to an incident where someone threatened to hurt themselves than during other arrests.
"Sometimes we just need help (learning) to talk to someone" who hears voices or is homeless on the street, Weaver said.
Astorino, who gave opening remarks to Tuesday's trainees, created "Safer Communities" in January 2013 in response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
The first Safer Communities forum focused on how to protect schools and children from such horrific violence.
"Police, firefighters, EMS professionals, teachers and principals never know if one day at work they may find themselves faced with a volatile and potentially violent situation,'' Astorino said. "The goal is simple: keep everyone safe."
Astorino said recent preparations for an Ebola outbreak involve first responders as well as many other county departments.
"People don’t think about Parks and DPW when it comes to infectious disease, but they could have important roles to play in containing outbreaks,'' Astorino said. "Suppose we have to close roads or use the County Center as a staging area. We have experience responding to natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy. The task at hand is to ensure that our resources can be positioned to respond to any public health issue we might face."
At the end of Tuesday's program, Dr. Sherlita Amler, the county Health Commissioner, provided Narcan training that can save the life of someone who overdoses on heroin.
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