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This information was published in the Sept. 3, 2016, edition of the Santan Sun News.

“A Focus on Understanding & Hope”

Forum offers families, caregivers and public safety professionals with networking opportunity, mental health and addiction resources

Many Chandler police officers have received Crisis Intervention Training, which better prepares them to speak with people who are undergoing a personal crisis and with family members who may be impacted by the crisis. Pictured: Chandler Police Sergeant Mike Moore.Daily news headlines around the nation shine a spotlight on the immense challenges public safety professionals are facing in their interactions with people impacted by mental health conditions and substance use in our cities and towns. Resolving these challenging encounters in positive and productive ways often requires police officers to have specialized training plus knowledge of and access to a variety of resources in the community. 

On Saturday, Sept. 24, the Chandler Police Department will host a free public forum they hope will better prepare officers for these complex situations and result in better outcomes for everyone involved. “A Focus on Understanding & Hope” is a resource fair to help educate the public about the stigma surrounding mental illness and connect people to assistance options in the community. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave., and it will feature than 45 organizations on hand to share information and offer networking opportunities. There will also be prize giveaways and light refreshments.

Numerous guest speakers will share their stories and expertise on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), physical and mental disabilities, suicide prevention, and substance use disorder, recovery, overdose prevention and more. Some of the most anticipated presentations at “A Focus on Understanding & Hope” will be abridged Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) courses that will be certified by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, also known as AZ POST.

“This event is for police officers, firefighters, military veterans, caregivers, anyone who is affected by mental health challenges and their family members,” said Chandler Police Commander David LeVoy. “It will be an educational event, but there will also be opportunities for participants to share their experiences with understanding professionals who can provide assistance and guidance.”

Chandler Police Chief Sean Duggan has made Crisis Intervention Training a goal for all of the Department’s officers. “This event will give Chandler officers a valuable training opportunity,” Commander LeVoy said. “It’s also open to public safety personnel from other jurisdictions, because these issues affect every community, and everyone will benefit if we can improve on how we handle these types of encounters.”

Some of the most effective lessons during Crisis Intervention Training are delivered by people with mental health conditions who challenge the assumptions and stereotypes that permeate society. Some of the presentations on Sept. 24 will be through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the “In Our Own Voice” program. These will be powerful first-hand accounts about the struggles faced by real people, their options for treatment, and the possibility of a bright future.  

“There is often a stigma attached to people with mental illness, and events like this one can help those of us in law enforcement learn to reduce our judgments about them and their family members,” Commander LeVoy added. We can all work together to get people the help they need. That will make Chandler a healthier community.”

During a Crisis Intervention training session, a man acts out various behaviors that could be exhibited by a person experiencing a mental health crisis.A Focus on Understanding & Hope 
Presentation Schedule

  • What does a substance abuse problem look like? 
    Hear a personal story of substance abuse and recovery from a local Arizonan, Justin Hermanski, who attended Hamilton High School in Chandler.
  • Finding HOPE Amidst Addiction
    An in-depth look into the opioid epidemic in Arizona, how it's treated and how we recover. 
  • Overdose Prevention through Naloxone
    This workshop will teach community members the skills to recognize an opioid overdose and respond effectively including the use of naloxone. 
  • RX Matters
    How to help older adults understand medication misuse, plus tools to help individuals avoid misuse and abuse of prescription medications.
  • Working with Law Enforcement
    Presenters will discuss the collaborative effort between law enforcement and the behavioral/mental health community to redirect individuals in crisis, away from the criminal justice system and into behavioral health system.  
  • In Our Own Voice 
    People with personal experience with mental illness lead a brief, yet comprehensive and interactive presentation, about mental health. Presented by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
  • The Commit Campaign
    This short presentation will focus on the mental health awareness campaign working to end the stigma associated with mental health, mental illness and suicide.
  • CIT Training 
    An officer teaches crisis intervention communication skills for fellow law enforcement officers. 
  • PTSD
    An officer shares his personal story of trauma experienced on the battlefield, and explains how that trauma was suppressed for many years until it was revealed when he faced an unimaginable situation with a suicidal subject. 
  • Suicide Prevention & Awareness
    Warning signs & symptoms of someone who may be contemplating suicide, and resources for taking intervening steps.
  • Trauma & Readjustment Issues for Veterans
    A psychologist from the West Valley Veterans Center will present on military-specific PTSD and trauma in relation to combat and Military Sexual Trauma (MST).  Readjustment issues common for veterans will be discussed, as well as resources for vets and their family and caregivers.

Valley Hope logoDay of “Understanding and Hope” begins with 1.5-mile march

September is National Recovery Month and one local addiction treatment organization is inviting the community to join in a 1.5-mile march to help spread the message that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can recover. Valley Hope of Chandler is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable treatment and recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs. Valley Hope is inviting the public to participate in “Voices of Hope: Our Families, Our Community, Our Stories” beginning at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, at their center at 501 N. Washington St.

The morning will begin with inspirational keynote speakers sharing their stories and encouraging people to become Champions of Hope. A Champion of Hope is someone who is willing to stand up against the stigma of addiction and stand beside those in recovery to offer support and compassion. Participants will then march to the Center for the Arts, where the Chandler Police Department event, “A Focus on Understanding & Hope,” begins at 9 a.m. Snacks and beverages will be provided, and all participants will receive a free t-shirt. For more information, call 480-899-3335 or visit

Chandler Police Officers Melissa Lotz (left) and Loranda Tibble have coordinated “A Focus on Understanding and Hope,” a free public forum and resource fair on Sept. 24 to help educate law enforcement professionals and the public about mental health and substance abuse resources in the community.Chandler officers’ crisis intervention experiences inspire them to organize community resource forum  

Chandler Police Officers Loranda Tibble and Melissa Lotz have responded to hundreds of calls involving mental illness or drug addiction during their 9 and 18 year policing careers, respectively. They’ve seen up close the pain and anguish of family members and friends who feel overwhelmed and unable to help the affected individual. At times they’ve experienced the same frustration that many law enforcement professionals feel when they want to help, but feel limited by their training or community resources.

Today, Lotz and Tibble are two of 35 Chandler police officers who are certified in crisis intervention and who stand ready to respond to certain situations and assist their fellow officers. As the Chandler Department strives to be a leader in the 21st Century Policing movement, one of Police Chief Sean Duggan’s goals is that eventually all Chandler police officers will receive Crisis Intervention Training (CIT).

The specialized training changed the way Officer Lotz approaches certain people and situations. “After taking CIT courses I noticed that I spoke to people differently when on patrol. I still had to project a strong police presence, but my tone changed dramatically and I had a friendlier, conversational style when speaking with people,” Officer Lotz explained. “I learned to better assess a situation, to know when to back off and give someone the space they needed to process what was happening to them.”

In addition to CIT, officers also need to possess a greater knowledge of the mental health and addiction treatment options that are available in the community. This includes resources that might be beneficial for the family members and friends of people who are dealing with addiction, mental health issues and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“We are often the first contact point in a crisis, and when we are dealing with an individual who is experiencing a mental health, PTSD or drug related incident we have a duty to try to help them in the long term and not just fall back on short term responses like arrest and send them to jail,” Officer Tibble said.

Their crisis intervention experiences in the field inspired the two officers to organize a local event last year that brought organizations, officers and the public together to share stories and resources. That event’s success has led to a second forum – “A Focus on Understanding & Hope” – from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 24, at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave.

“We want our officers to get to know some of the people and organizations that we rely on to help those affected by substance abuse, mental health issues, and physical and mental disabilities,” said Officer Lotz. “If we are all on the same page, working together, we can make a difference in peoples’ lives. That’s why I love being a patrol officer.”