HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Honolulu Police Department is seeing an increase in calls for help for mental illness and substance abuse. Now, officers are going through a national training program to help them better respond to crisis calls.

KHON2 was invited to observe controlled scenarios Friday at the Honolulu police academy. Those scenarios were just a glimpse at the reality Honolulu police officers face.

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“Almost every call I go to, I treat it as if it is a mental health crisis,” said David Ishida, a Honolulu police officer.

“The problem is much more in your face than it has been in the last decade,” said Maj. Mike Lambert, of the Honolulu Police Department Training Division.

Crisis Intervention Training aims to help reduce harm while interacting with someone who’s mentally ill. Friday, the last portion of the week long course, involved role play and scenarios with feedback.

“There’s a huge emphasis on the de-escalation,” said Natalia Werkoff, with the Hawai’i Health and Harm Reduction Center.

“Their voice, their tone, non-threatening. We really want to encourage reflecting empathy for the individual that they’re responding to,” said Werkoff.

Officers said CIT training will be helpful as more and more cases they deal with involve individuals with substance abuse or mental illness.

“We also went over how to work with someone with schizophrenia or someone who might be suffering from bipolar,” said Samantha Iha-Preece, a Honolulu police officer. “So I learned all those symptoms, knowledge and tips on how to work with them.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 187,000 adults in Hawai’i have a mental health condition. NAMI said, one in four of those individuals will be arrested sometime in their life.

“The hope is that we can actually derail some of the behavior and get them into rehab or mental health services so they’re not just out there causing the disturbances that we get called to,” said Maj. Lambert.

This is HPD’S ninth CIT class with 20 officers graduating Friday. Hilo police will be next to receive the training in November.

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“We also want community members to know that when they call 911, they have the option in requesting a crisis intervention trained officer and we’re hoping to train enough officers that there will always be one available,” said Iha-Preece.