WSU Spokane was the setting this week for the TEAM Conference, a two-day event that brought first responders and mental health professionals together to discuss ways our community can work together on issues of mental health.
Research from our campus played a big role in having the conference on campus.
Steve James, a researcher in the Criminal Justice program on campus, has a contract with the Spokane Police Department to help the department learn why force is used in police encounters. Bryan Vila, a professor in the Criminal Justice program, has research on deadly encounters and distracted driving that has led to policy and strategy changes in police departments in the U.S. Matt Layton, a clinical associate professor in the College of Medical Sciences, is a psychiatrist and was involved in the conference as well. He has research on mental health and substance abuse in rural areas.
Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub is a major player in the relationship with our campus.
“The partnership just keeps getting better and better,” he said during the conference.
Straub said he wants research-based strategies and policies in his department. He lauded the research on our campus as helping his police officers.
The TEAM Conference aimed to bring first responders and mental health professionals together so attendees could get a better understanding of how each entity works in order to break down barriers between the entities. A police department – for example – working separately from mental health professionals doesn’t lead to great outcomes. When those two work together and understand each other’s missions, they can achieve better outcomes.
One way research on our campus is looking at breaking down those barriers is including first responders and mental health professionals in the same research studies. For example, James conducted research that involved law enforcement and mental health professionals to find what scenarios they each find themselves in is most frequently and are difficult to defuse. The research will be used for de-escalation training for law enforcement officers, for example. The research will also help create policies in police departments.
Research from our campus is guiding policies and strategies for law enforcement and mental health professionals. The TEAM Conference showcased that and allowed for better collaboration in our community to combat mental health issues.
Note: The conference couldn’t have happened without a generous $10,000 gift from the Dr. George S. (Bud) Eugster Memorial Lectureship Fund. Eugster was a Spokane cardiologist.