MASON CITY, Iowa - For first responders, dealing with people in crisis is part of their everyday job. This week, a Texas-based program is giving North Iowa first responders the training they need to talk to people in crisis, and also get the mental help they might need themselves.
Solution Point Plus provides key tools needed when dealing with people in a mental health crisis or a state of emotional despair, including those who may be suffering from manic depression or are contemplating suicide. The training, also known as Crisis Intervention Training, is a 40-hour course, and has a community-based model, with officers and deputies, nurses, victim's advocates and other mental health professionals in attendance. The training also includes roleplaying scenarios with attendees.
For Rebecca Barrett, who is a parole probation supervisor, the week-long course is extremely valuable.
"We're continuing to sharpen our skills, learning about crisis response, and continuing to work on de-escalating our clients that have mental health issues."
The roleplay scenarios are, by far, her favorite part of the curriculum.
"It's really teaching us how to hone those skills that we learn in the classroom, and then given critiques on how we do on our roleplays to get better."
Co-founders Jesse Trevino and Joe Smarro started Solution Point Plus a little over ten years ago. Both are U.S. Marine Corps vets, and base their training from their experiences with the San Antonio Police Department's mental health unit. The unit's work has been nationally recognized.
"We recognize that Iowa has a particular need. Iowa's in a progressive phase going from almost no resources to a lot, and we're gracious to Iowa because they keep bringing us back."
Both Trevino and Smarro have shared their own mental health struggles as part of the training; Trevino himself endures from PTSD.
"Within the classes themselves, we're starting to find there's a culture change. People openly tell their story, 'hey, I'm diagnosed with this, I'm on this medication.' We're starting to see a culture shift, but there's a lot of work to be done."
Trevino is proud of the program's impact.
"When we leave, within one month, we always have at least one story of great outcome, and they're proud to share it."
On Friday, attendees will be evaluated on what they learned this week.