Staples, Minn.,
15:44 PM

NJPA to host Mental Health Awareness Classes mid-January

Class will give officers, county employees, & mental health professionals a more collaborative approach to helping someone experiencing a mental health crisis

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S., experiences mental illness in a given year, while 1 in 25 adults experiences a serious mental illness in a given year.

Across the country, and especially here in rural Minnesota, police officers have become the front line respondents to people with serious mental illnesses who are in crisis. While most individuals with mental illness aren't violent or dangerous, officers and mental health advocates believe changes to training could help de-escalate tense situations and alleviate crowded emergency rooms and jails.

In mid-January, the Minnesota Crisis Intervention Team Officer's Association is offering three 8-hour Mental Health Awareness classes (all separate trainings) at National Joint Powers Alliance® (NJPA) in Staples.


We must take a proactive approach to attempt to assist individuals to receive the mental health care they need rather than strictly deal with the criminal behaviors.
Raymond Birkholtz, Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office

The course came at the request of several area law enforcement and public health personnel, including Raymond Birkholtz, Training Sergeant for the Jail Division of Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office.

“Often times law enforcement is called to deal with individuals that suffer from severe mental illnesses that repeatedly commit non-threatening misdemeanor offenses,” Birkholtz said. “These offenses may include trespassing, theft of food, or theft of clothing. Law Enforcement officials need to recognize that these individuals may need mental health help, not be arrested and brought to jail. We must take a proactive approach to attempt to assist individuals to receive the mental health care they need rather than strictly deal with the criminal behaviors.”

The class is designed for all sworn officers, county employees, and mental health professionals who desire a more collaborative relationship with law enforcement when coming into contact with someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

Attendees can expect a basic overview of mental illness: schizophrenia and psychotic disorders, mood disorders, cognitive disorders and personality and substance disorders. The course will also dissect the causes and nature of illnesses, typical patterns of behaviors, common medications, and guidelines for officer response. A panel of people living with mental illness will share their experiences and answer questions.

The courses at NJPA come on the brink of crisis intervention training becoming a requirement for law enforcement. As of July, state legislation will mandate that all law enforcement officers have a minimum of 16 hours of training every three years in three areas - mental health crisis response, conflict de-escalation, and diversity and implicit bias training.

Classes at NJPA are January 16, 17, and 18, with a limit of 30 people per day. Cost is $25 for Region 5 members, $50 for Region 5 non-members, and $50 for attendees outside of Region 5. Lunch is included.

For more information, visit, or contact NJPA Administrative Specialist Missy Tureson at 218-895-4129.

About NJPA

Sourcewell (formerly National Joint Powers Alliance) is a self-supporting government organization, partnering with education, government, and nonprofits to boost student and community success. Created in 1978 as one of Minnesota's nine service cooperatives, we offer training and shared services to our central-Minnesota members. Throughout North America, we offer a cooperative purchasing program with over 200 awarded vendors on contract. Sourcewell is driven by service and the ability to strategically reinvest in member communities.