By Niagara University
David Whalen, Niagara University’s first/emergency responder disability awareness training project director and ADA coordinator, was a featured presenter at Crisis Intervention Team International’s annual conference, “Improving Crisis Response Systems,” Aug. 14-16 in Detroit. This was the third consecutive year Whalen presented at this conference.
Whalen, who co-presented with Capt. Pat Mann, NU's law enforcement master trainer and a retired member of the Buffalo Police Department, discussed “Beyond CIT – The Other Disabilities Law Enforcement Needs to Know,” with approximately 170 law enforcement officers, mental health and addiction professionals, and advocates. The talk highlighted the ways disabilities present, and how they are often mistaken for mental health disorders, inebriation, or substance use.
Lack of awareness of disabilities puts both the person with a disability and the officer at risk, sometimes in peril, Whalen noted.
“Officers who are CIT trained are better able to respond to persons in crisis,” he said. “DAT picks up where CIT leaves off, educating on how disabilities present, how to recognize indicators so as to identify the disability. From there, approach and interaction are appropriate, minimizing confusion while leading to a proper and appropriate response.”
The Crisis Intervention Team program is a community partnership of law enforcement, mental health and addiction professionals, individuals who live with mental illness and/or addiction disorders, their families, and other partners to improve community responses to mental health crises. Its international conference is the largest of its kind and brings together about 1,500 people from across the U.S., Canada, Europe, Africa and Australia to exchange ideas, learn best practices, and network.