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July 7, 2021

Open Sky Community Services granted $116K to train police in mental health response

Ken Bates Photo | Brad Kane Ken Bates, president & CEO of Open Sky Community Services

Worcester human services nonprofit Open Sky Community Services received a $116,000 grant from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health to train police on de-escalation tactics to divert distressed individuals away from the criminal justice system and emergency rooms.

The grant will be used to run a Crisis Intervention Team Training and Technical Assistance Center. The program includes 40 hours of training for police on de-escalation tactics, as well as an eight-hour mental health first aid training for first responders to better understand mental-illness. 

The model was first developed in 1988 to create bridge the gap between policing and mental healthcare. It has led to a 58% decrease in arrests of people with mental health issues, according to the Maryland nonprofit GAINS Center for Behavioral Health and Justice Transformation.

The Massachusetts Department of Mental Health has awarded more than $1.3 million to similar training programs and centers throughout 125 municipalities, involving 740 officers.

Open Sky provides more than 100 programs to support individuals in Central Massachusetts with mental health challenges, developmental disabilities, and other related issues.

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