The Mental Health & Recovery Board (MHRB) of Portage County is busy preparing for this year’s Crisis Intervention Training Class.
Deputy Kelly DiBona of the Portage County Sheriff’s Office had one of those “aha” moments while presenting last year to school staff on what it was like to be a kid trying to keep a family together with parents battling it out regularly.
DiBona was a featured speaker for the Portage County Crisis Intervention Team Education Collaboration (CITEC) training. The workshop provides an intense week of classes focused on helping school staff work with students and families where there is mental illness, violence, substance disorders and crisis. DiBona is member of the workshop faculty for this year, July 21-25.
CITEC for 2014 will be held at the Streetsboro Police Department, 2080 State Route 303, Streetsboro. The cost of the training is $100 for the week. Participants can apply and pay for up to two graduate credit hours at Kent State University and Ashland University.
“Schooling was on my back burner and I did not want to be there most of the time for fear of what was happening at home while I was gone,” she said. The oldest child, DiBona took on the role of protector for siblings and also picked up the pieces, literally, after the violence ended. Her life was impacted with fear, mental abuse, and anger for a decade.
“As a result of this upheaval in my home life, I gave some of my teachers a rough time while in class. I never realized the stress I was causing them,” she remembered.
What really stands out for DiBona, over and above the trauma, were the teachers who were her lifeline through the crises even though they didn’t know it until years later.
“Thankfully there were a few teachers that believed in me and always made me accountable for my actions, but never made me feel worthless,” DiBona confided.
DiBona had a chance to voice her gratitude and discuss what it was like being a child and teen in a traumatic household at last year’s CITEC training. She felt fortunate to be part of a training that provides school staff with the same tools that she acquired through the Crisis Intervention Team training for law enforcement.
Sponsored by the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County, the 40-hour program is designed for school personnel including teachers, administrators, guidance counselors, psychologists, bus drivers, and other school employees. The goal is to increase awareness of mental health problems and learn how to prevent and manage crisis situations.
“Not every teacher or school employee will connect with every child; but knowledge is truly power, and CITEC can help bridge the gap and give staff more skills to apply to crisis situations that arise in their day-to-day routines,” DiBona said.
Echoing DiBona’s assessment of the program, Cindy Kolke was graduated from the CITEC training in 2010. She is an aide in a Streetsboro High School class where the students have multiple disabilities.
“CITEC classes helped me understand the importance of mental health awareness and how to manage in a crisis situation and keep an individual safe. The training has made me more effective in my classroom,” Kolke said.
Waterloo High School Intervention Specialist Carrie Suvada, who was one of the founding creators of CITEC, said she regularly uses de-escalation techniques learned during the training in her own classroom when she identifies a student who is struggling and who is at risk for crisis.
“Our program provides a proactive knowledge base that helps school staff recognize the behavioral health issues before they develop into a crisis in the classroom, cafeteria or on the bus or playing field. We keep the curriculum up-to-date with research that is available on mental health issues affecting youth and families,” said Suvada, who is a veteran special education teacher.
The class includes an in-depth review of local mental health resources and contacts with agency professionals. “The direct contact has been extremely beneficial for me to be able to offer parents resources that they might otherwise not have known about,” Suvada explained.
Suvada saw the benefits of the international CIT training after her husband Sgt. Andy Suvada went through the program sponsored in Portage County by the Mental Health & Recovery Board, the Portage County Sheriff’s Office, and the local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Both CIT and CITEC emphasize the understanding of mental health problems, the need for community collaboration to help people with these problems, and specific techniques to manage individuals who are experiencing behavioral and emotional crises. The ultimate goal in a crisis situation is to de-escalate the individual to keep everyone safe and to then get the student appropriate help, such as hospitalization rather than incarceration.
The CITEC curriculum offers information about mental health disorders, sexual abuse, PTSD, depression and suicide, developmental disorders including autism, domestic violence, school safety plans, and substance abuse. In addition, training focuses on community resources and de-escalation techniques and role plays to practice skills.
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*Photo information: Deputy Kelly DiBona, center, of the Portage County Sheriff’s Office, congratulated kindergarteners Gemma Alexander, left, and Nolan Hamilton for completing the Waterloo Schools Safety Land program.