The Free Press, Mankato, MN

August 2, 2013

Mental health training key to public safety

The Mankato Free Press

---- — Thumbs up to the city of Mankato, its Department of Public Safety and several other government and community groups that made a commitment to learning about crisis mental health situations through a recent intensive training program.

The Department of Public Safety hosted mental health trainers from the Houston Police Mental Health Team for a weeklong training on how to deal with crisis situations involving people with mental health problems. Other agencies getting the training included Mayo Clinic Health System emergency department staff, North Mankato and St. Peter police, representatives from Mankato schools, MRCI, the Crisis Center and Blue Earth County social services.

Mental health crisis training is so crucial for all of these agencies. We know mental health needs are growing and the resources to meet those needs are declining. That leads people with mental health problems into crisis situations where they can hurt themselves or others.

It's easy to discount this kind of training because it's seen as not needed or too expensive. Nothing could be further from reality. Police and others also benefit from this training because they can learn how to de-escalate a situation before they or their colleagues get hurt.

Mental illness is just like physical illnesses. We don't discount getting knowledge and education about physical illness and our attitude toward mental health should be no different.

It's good to see the law enforcement and social service community is taking this seriously. The community will benefit.

Emergency notification plan will benefit residents

Thumbs up to Nicollet County for adopting a new emergency notification system that will keep residents well-informed when disaster strikes.

Notifications are sent out by telephone calls, text messages or emails. County authorities can alert residents about severe weather, gas leaks, missing persons and unexpected road closures.

The up-to-date system ensures people can be reached. Previously law enforcement agencies were able to use systems that used 911 mapping technology to provide emergency alerts. That isn't the best option anymore because so many people no longer use land lines connected to telephones in their homes.

Blue Earth County also is exploring the adoption of a more up-to-date method to contact residents.

Nicollet County's system allows residents and businesses to add their own information directly into the system. The information will not be shared and is to be used only for emergency purposes.

Now people need to make sure to enter their information, or the new system will be of no use to them. (Visit and click on "Citizen Alert.") Residents without access to the Internet can contact Emergency Management at 934-0410 or 934-0412 and supply their information over the phone.

Diversity STEM camp offers opportunity

Thumbs up to the organizers of the first Future Leaders in Science Technology Engineering and Math Camp for students of diversity recently held at Minnesota State University.

The office Institutional Diversity brought in kids from Rochester, Redwood Falls and the Mankato region and offered a four-day camp that exposed the kids to careers the the STEM area. The camp targets middle-school children because research shows they are often direct away from those science careers once they get into high school.

The event had to be a great experience for the students. It involved physical activity, building robots, checking out the college recreation center and even going to a Vikings practice.

We hope the program continues in the future. It's a great way to expose the diverse students to to exciting careers in the sciences, engineering and math fields.