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Emergency? Need Help Now? (802) 229-0591

Team Two Trainings Across the State: A True Collaborative Process Between Mental Health Agencies and Law Enforcement

Team Two is a full day training curriculum designed to foster collaboration between law enforcement and mobile mental health crisis workers when responding to emergency mental health crises.  Mental health crises can arise anywhere; in the home, at school or work, or in public.  Wherever police are called upon to respond, it’s imperative they respond with all the tools necessary to effectively de-escalate the situation.  While she did not choose the name, the idea for the training was the brainchild of our very own Executive Director, Mary Moulton. 

The Collaborative Idea is Born

Back in 2012, when Mary was serving as the Deputy Commissioner at the VT Department of Mental Health (DMH), she brought together representatives from DMH, VT State Police, VT Chiefs and Sheriffs, Designated Mental Health Agencies, Emergency Service Directors, VT Department on Disabilities, Aging and Independent Living (DAIL), the VT Department of Health, National Alliance on Mental Health, the Criminal Justice Training Academy and consumers to come to the table and devise a training that would explore the collaborative process. 

Mary relied on Washington County Mental Health Service’s (WCMHS) own mobile emergency crisis team’s positive relationship with its law enforcement partners as a model. Recognizing that not all mental health Designated Agencies across the state experienced a good working relationship with their law enforcement partners, this initial work group created a scenario-based training. This kind of training helps to reinforce the message of “strength in partnership” in order to develop the best possible response to an emergency crisis situation. The agenda includes information on the relevant law, local resources, a panel of people with lived experience in mental health crisis, and three emergency crisis scenarios based on real-life cases.

A pilot training then took place in November, 2012, for “executives” - Executive Directors, Program Managers, Chiefs and Sheriffs and the upper management of the Vermont State Police. One of the most powerful moments of that day occurred during the panel of stories when a mother told the story of seeking help for her 14 year old son who was deeply depressed and ended up being placed in handcuffs and taken involuntarily to the hospital after sitting calmly for hours. This story affected a subsequent change in state policy that now requires an assessment upon transport to determine whether a person can be transported without restraints.  From the evaluations taken from this training, a steering committee created what is now the Team Two curriculum. They chose the “Team Two” label to emphasize the collaborative approach in responding to mental health crises. In May, 2013, under former DMH Assistant Attorney General Kristin Chandler’s oversight, local crisis workers and law enforcement participated in train-the-trainer trainings in four regional venues around the State. The expectation was that these trainers could then come together to train their peers in regional trainings. Initial goals of the Steering Committee included training all emergency first responders in the Team Two curriculum. 

Grant Awarded to Further the Team Two Program

In May, 2014 DMH awarded a grant to Vermont Care Partners (VCP) to run the Team Two Program. WCMHS signed on as a partner to provide office space and supervision to the Coordinator.  The Vermont Cooperative for Practice Improvement and Innovation (VCPII) agreed to develop surveys to measure program outcomes. The VT Department of Public Safety provided materials and additional office space, further promoting true collaboration among first responders. The Team Two Program is a real living example of a collaborative effort across the State to benefit all agencies involved.

Currently, 28 law enforcement and mental health crisis workers train their peers in the Team Two curriculum in five regions around the state. The Northwest Region captures Chittenden, Grand Isle and Franklin Counties, the Central Region is comprised of Washington and Orange Counties, Southeast is Windham and Windsor Counties, Southwest is Addison, Rutland and Bennington Counties and the Northeast Region is Caledonia, Essex, Lamoille and  Orleans County.  When Mary Moulton was asked how this is working, she states, “Our great good fortune is having Coordinator Kristin Chandler as our leader in this project. Kristin’s knowledge of the law and her natural ability to connect with law enforcement officers and emergency responders is what makes this statewide training work.  We are not paying people to come to the table; we are not paying people from our response groups to be trainers.  They come to the table with good will and the desire to build an informed, safe response to people in our communities who experience a mental health crisis; and they come because Kristin delivers a curriculum that is educational and challenging.” Thus far, six of the eight scheduled trainings have taken place in South Burlington, Newport, Royalton, South Barre, Springfield and Rutland.  Bennington and a return to South Burlington are scheduled for April and May, respectively.  A total of 90 law enforcement officers and 52 crisis workers have been trained in this curriculum under the current grant. 31 police agencies, every Vermont State police barracks, and all designated mental health agencies have been represented at the trainings conducted since 2013. VT State’s Attorneys, Disability Rights Vermont, Second Spring Recovery Residence and DMH have also sent representatives to the trainings. 


The completed surveys, from the first five trainings, reveal just how needed this type of training is. 90% of participants reported that their general knowledge in the identified skill areas increased. 90% reported that their future work in the field will be impacted, and 82% reported an increase in their confidence in responding to a mental health crisis.


The collaboration piece that this training provides is critical. Participants have expressed gratitude for this type of training that brings first responders together in one room – sometimes for the first time – to learn about how each agency responds to a mental health emergency crisis. These first responders learn how to better work together to not only help one another, but to provide the best possible response to a person in crisis. Trainings topics often include:

Everyone comes away learning something new about mental health crisis response. Mary states, “We have achieved success if the people receiving the response believe they have been approached with caring and respect. These situations can hold an element of risk; therefore, it is very important that we train together, work together, and optimize the probability of a safe outcome.”

VT Department of Mental Health has committed to funding the Team Two Program for another year.  VT Department of Public Safety has committed to providing additional funding in order to include dispatchers to the audience who will receive the training. Plans are under way to also include Developmental Service emergency crisis providers and emergency department staff.  While the initial goal of training all first responders has yet to be achieved, Team Two and its collaborative partners are well on their way.

For more information about the Team Two Program and trainings, please contact Coordinator Kristin Chandler at teamtwovermont@gmail.com or (802) 236-5065.


Written 4/2015

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