After the Webinar: Beyond Checking a Box. Q&A with Amanda Stamps

Webinar presenter Amanda Stamps answered a number of your questions after her webinar, Beyond Checking a Box: Ensuring Your Crisis Response Grows and Thrives within Your Community. Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: Mental Health First Aid is a great resource to anyone who wants to be certified in and lasts for three years. Are you familiar with the certification MHFA?

Amanda Stamps: Yes, I’m certified in Mental Health First Aid.

Host: Is that something that, that you’d recommend for other officers?

Amanda Stamps: So, my thoughts on Mental Health First Aid is that it is an amazing basic, level, mental health class. I do not have a problem with it being the first training that that officers receive. But, the caveat is that a lot of Mental Health First Aid training is, is community based, its civilian based training. So, there are portions of Mental Health First Aid that directly go against law, enforcement obligations, and statutes, and laws. So, when you have people teaching Mental Health First Aid to law enforcement, they have to kind of adapt the training to law enforcement. So, you have to have people that are familiar with the requirements of law enforcement. And I’ll just give, one example, there’s a portion that talks about a suicidal person not being ready to talk, and the suggestion of the training, often, is, you walk away and come back, and as a law enforcement officer, that’s not always an option for us. We have statutes that require us to take action, so the training is amazing. The training for the community is amazing. The training for teachers. So, the training in itself is great. But if you’re teaching it for a law enforcement, you have to make sure the trainer has a law enforcement understanding. So, they do not give them information that they can’t use.

Host: The person asking the question did clarify. Yes, I was referring more to civilians, you mentioned degrees not being necessary, so this is more about communication and listening skills.

Amanda Stamps: Oh, absolutely. Anybody, but law enforcement, I would highly recommend that all the time, and I still recommend it for law enforcement, just with a caveat.


Audience Question: You mentioned some level of safety being created by having a non-law enforcement mobile crisis response because the client believes that they are there to help. So, do you have any data on whether there is a similar benefit to law enforcement, responding to calls in a plain car and in a soft uniform? Does the person in crisis feel like they’ve been duped when they realized it’s a police response? 

Amanda Stamps: I haven’t seen the person feeling duped necessarily. I have seen success in that. My particular unit just changed their uniforms and they still wore uniforms, they were just a soft look. I will tell you that we polled our providers and within the crisis system when we’re creating our uniforms, and there was not a single provider that thought it was necessary for the officers to not be in uniforms. It’s tricky because as an officer, there’s very few calls, that I’m going to go on without wearing my vest. So, finding a way to do that in a soft way, but I will say that no, I’ve never seen anybody upset about being duped. I have seen people react a little poorly to the uniform. So, I’m not opposed to the soft look. It’s just, there’s just, you have to figure out how to factor in the safety of that. I knew Tucson went to soft for a lot of their response and had a lot of success on it. But, I would say, it kind of depends on your area, and how that would look, and there is no data on it yet. I will tell you that, there’s not any research on what is better.


Audience Question: If you do not have an embedded 911 clinician, how do you help divert calls to embedded behavioral health clinicians? 

Amanda Stamps: I mean, it’s all going to start with training and policy. Probably, policy first. You have to have to sell it to your 911 people that it’s okay. Your leadership has to sell it because our communications personnel are deeply invested in getting people help. So, there’s going to be that struggle to let go of that call to somebody else. So, with your policies and leadership, they really have to go in and convince them that it’s okay. Because the second is training and training is training is training. You can train them on this is the type of call, these are the questions to ask, this is your initial assessment and my jurisdiction we haven’t written triage list of questions that we ask in order for the diversion to happen, but we put our communications through CIT. So, it gives them that better understanding of mental illness and substance abuse, so they do have to have that understanding, but creation of policies and triage list is probably the best way to do it if you cannot afford the embedded clinician, and reaching out to agencies that, have done it successfully. I can give you three here in Arizona, Phoenix, Tempe, and Mesa, and I know they are all willing to share any kind of training and policy that they do with you. Go find somebody that’s already successfully implemented it.


Audience Question: Those triaged lists you just mentioned, is that something that people can get through a mental health provider, or what resource would you recommend for getting some of those triage list? 

Amanda Stamps: I would work with your mental health provider and communications personnel. We do have a lot of national standards they go through when it comes to creating those so work with your provider, they do have their assessment lists. And then again, reach out to people that have already created it. You don’t need to re-invent the wheel, because there are agencies that have already created list and are willing to share it.


Audience Question: How do we resolve the ownership partnership problem with behavioral health? I’m not really sure what John is referring to, but I’m assuming you probably do. 

Amanda Stamps: I can guess, and John can correct me if I’m not accurate. I will say, you know, when it comes to these calls, oftentimes they get pushed back on too law enforcement because of the behavioral health. In the end, we get sued for everything we do and if we go out on a call with behavioral health and something bad happens, it tends to always get pushback on law enforcement, so maybe that’s what he’s referring to. I will say that we manage the ownership and responsibility of our behavioral health providers by having a solid relationship with the funding source. So, in Arizona, we have something called the Regional Behavioral Health Authority, and I’m sure a lot of states have that, and they are the ones that pay everybody and behavioral health to do their job. And ultimately, if we are repeatedly dealing with a company or a provider that is not doing their job, we will go to the people that pay their bills and have conversations with them about the lack of services. A lot of that can be mitigated by contracts. So, a lot of crisis funding is state based Medicaid funding? So, if that is the case with your area, like, find out who within the Medicaid state based funding that can be your contact and tell you what the providers are contracted to do. And then if they are not following what they’re contracted to do, you can go to your funding source and kind of push them into taking more ownership. So,  I think I think that’s what he’s referring to.


Audience Question: Our community relies heavily on the co-responder model due to crisis mobile teams, and 988 transferring calls to 911. How do we help empower these crisis services to respond to these calls or work together to respond to these calls without involving law enforcement? 

Amanda Stamps: So, that would tell me that your 988 and your crisis teams are either not available or they do not feel sufficiently safe going to those calls that. The agencies that I have helped and consulted with that. Those are typically the two reasons why they come back to 911. It’s because they either don’t have people available, which is always going to be on money funding source, or they do not feel confident enough and safe enough going on these calls. So, we have to start training our teams that they, in fact, can be safe going in on these calls. That there are crisis mobile teams across the country that do this day in and day out safely. So, you’ll find, if you need a reference, I can help you with that on some statistics on how safe they typically are. I can help with training aspects of your crisis mobile team. Because, if you have people that don’t have a ton of crisis experience, and you get a call that says so and so wants to kill themselves, that is intimidating and scary if you don’t have experience with it. And so, if they don’t have experience, then it’s going to come down to adequate training prior to. And then also demonstrating through other successful community based crisis teams that it is, in fact, safe. I will tell you that law enforcement perpetuates that feeling of not being safe too much. So, a lot of times, if your system is was created based on the law enforcement need and it was based on people in law enforcement are the one driving a lot of your crisis response. We, as officers, are hyper-vigilant about everything. So, you do not want to ask an officer, if it’s safe for a crisis team to go on a suicidal person call because we, as officers, have been trained forever that it’s not. When, in fact it generally is, but that’s just our mentality. So, make sure that you’re training them, but it’s training that is based on their behavioral health crisis teams, their experience, and their knowledge, and you’re not receiving that safety training from law enforcement, because a lot of times that, well, that’s not going to work out like you think it is because we’re very hyper safe about everything. So, talk to crisis teams that do it successfully, bring in-training programs that are based on the successful crisis mobile teams.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Beyond Checking a Box: Ensuring Your Crisis Response Grows and Thrives within Your Community.  



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