Law Enforcement Officers Equipped with Mental Health First Aid

More than 400 people have received training in Mental Health First Aid, an eight-hour intensive training that gives people the skills and knowledge to refer individuals in distress to the appropriate resources in an effort to avoid a crisis.

One of them is Sgt. Jason Boesdorfer. He’s the commander of the Sangamon County Sheriff’s Office tactical negotiations team, a multijurisdictional team run by the sheriff’s office with members from the Secretary of State Police, Capitol Police, Chatham Police and the University of Illinois Springfield Police. He and nine other members went through the Mental Health First Aid training.

“On critical incidents we’re called out to as a team, we’re often dealing with someone who either has a mental illness or is in a hyper emotional state clouding their judgment and decision-making. Our role in that case is to try and communicate with that person to achieve a peaceful resolution to the crisis and avoid injury or loss of life to hostages or themselves,” Boesdorfer said.

“Mental Health First Aid provided insight to our team members in dealing with persons in distress. By being able to recognize and identify the signs and symptoms of different mental health disorders, our negotiators can more specifically orient our negotiation techniques needed to reduce the stress surrounding the crisis.”

Memorial Health System provided the funding to bring the nationally recognized program to central Illinois. Memorial Behavioral Health, an affiliate of the health system, is working with local community groups to oversee implementation of the program in a four-county region.

“While most people know how to recognize and appropriately react to medical emergencies, there’s little knowledge in the general public about what to do in a mental health crisis,” said Jan Gambach, president of Memorial Behavioral Health and administrator for behavioral health for Memorial Health System. “Mental Health First Aid gives them the tools to respond in a crisis.”

A total of 440 people have been trained in 33 sessions: 24 trainings in Sangamon County, six in Morgan County, two in Logan County and one in Christian County.

If you know someone who could benefit from Mental Health First Aid or would like to host a training, visit