|Crisis Intervention Team training has helped Lt. Sharon Hissom of the Robinson Memorial Hospital Police Department achieve an extraordinary and compassionate accomplishment—turning crisis to calm for patients with mental illness.
A 35-year veteran of law enforcement work, Lt. Hissom has been named a 2013 CIT Officer of the Year in Portage County by the Portage County Police Chief’s Association. The award is given by the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County.
She is often called to the Robinson Emergency Department when a patient arrives with mental health issues. The situations are often tense and unpredictable for the patient as well as hospital staff.
Hissom goes to work with her CIT tools to de-escalate the level of the crisis and bring calm so the patient receives the care he or she needs and Hissom’s hospital colleagues stay safe. Since 2009 when she went through the training, annual arrests at the hospital have dropped from 62 to five in 2012.
“Officers need tools to work with patients in crisis, which we are seeing on a daily basis. CIT training has given us the additional tools. I have found if the patient is communicating, I can keep a conversation going for an extended period of time. This, often, has worked in calming that person,” Hissom said.
Hissom’s boss, Richard Blasko, an interim associate vice president at the hospital, points to her as the reason for the progress. “Lt. Hissom’s efforts are directly responsible for this dramatic reduction in arrests even during a time when we have consistently seen an increase in police calls to our Emergency Department,” Blasko said.
“Lt. Hissom’s application of the CIT concepts and her leadership has shown compassion to those who have mental illness, substance abuse or metal stress challenges and has allowed them to receive needed medical care without fear of incarceration,” he explained.
Crisis Intervention Training is a national program created by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The training provides officers with the knowledge and tools to help de-escalate people in crisis and make referrals. The end result is safety for the individual and the officer and the probability that the person will be connected to the services he or she needs.
The program is sponsored in Portage County by the Mental Health & Recovery Board in partnership with the Portage County Sheriff’s Office. More than 200 law enforcement professionals representing all the local police departments in the county as well as the sheriff’s office have been trained through the program.
Hissom was recognized for her CIT skill and adherence this year along with Officer Will Scritchfield of Kent State University Police Services. They are the seventh and eighth recipients of the award.
Hissom has embraced the concept that the person with the mental illness is a human being first and be worthy of her respect and understanding. CIT training, especially the education simulating serious mental illness, changed her perspective. She related a story about a man who came into the Emergency Department in crisis.
“He was not staying in bed and was not happy to see an officer. I started to talk to him and asked if he would like something to drink. I brought him a coffee.
“He told me about working on the space shuttle project in California, where he was the quality control manager. I learned more about how the shuttle and the heat shields were constructed than any book or TV could have provided. He also talked about his move to Ohio and his family. He finally fell asleep.”
“I saw him being transferred to his room on the 2nd floor and he thanked me for my patience and kindness,” she remembered.
A Kent resident, Hissom’s personal career philosophy is to “do the very best at my job with integrity and fairness.” She has been with the hospital police department since 2005 and has been steadily promoted. She oversees all aspects of the day shift operations at Robinson.
Previously she worked for the Brimfield Police Department as a patrol officer and detective. She also worked as a detective for the Portage County Sheriff’s Office where she served as a detective including in the juvenile division and as a lieutenant in the road division. Law enforcement work appeals to her skill at solving puzzles. “I have always enjoyed putting puzzles together, seeing how they fit. Law enforcement gave me that opportunity to ‘put the pieces together.’”
She has lived her whole life in Kent. Hissom is a graduate of Kent Roosevelt High School and the Ohio Police Officers Training Academy. She is also an A.L.I.C.E. instructor.
The Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County is a county agency that plans, funds and monitors public mental health and addiction treatment services for Portage County residents. Mostly funded by local levies, the board also funds 24-hour emergency services to help residents in crisis and to provide assistance when communities experience crisis incidents. Services are funded through a network of community agencies: Coleman Professional Services, Townhall II, Children’s Advantage and Family and Community Services.