Marie Ridgeway

 

Marie Ridgeway currently leads MCPA's new series Conflict Management, Mediation and Crisis Intervention.  She has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and is currently an independently licensed Clinical Social Worker and psychotherapist in private practice. Ridgeway is also a Health Officer for Hennepin County where she responds to mental health crisis calls and provides mobile mental health crisis assessments. Please see attached license and badge.

In a recent interview for Minnesota Police Chief magazine, she talks about her interest in teaching the series and how it will benefit law enforcement officers:

 


Why are you passionate about helping law enforcement learn these skills?

My passion for this work comes from seeing officers, colleagues, and clients struggle in crisis situations. I have worked alongside police for years as a social worker in Child Protection and as a Mobile Mental Health Crisis Responder. I know I wouldn’t be able to do my job as a social worker without the help of police because some situations are too risky to approach or remain in without the assistance of law enforcement. As someone who has spent my career studying and treating mental health, I know my own limitations when working with those who are in crisis and when I reach those limits, I call for help from police. At the same time, law enforcement often ends up being the default response for individuals at the height of a mental health crisis when they could really benefit from a clinician’s expertise. As social workers, we often have the advantage of scheduling meetings with clients, the assistance of additional information from collaterals, and often even their histories related to treatment and criminal convictions. For police, the deck is stacked against them having to respond in the moment with only a snippet of information from dispatch and many (potentially dangerous) unknowns. Until now, very little crisis intervention training has been provided to officers, and, from the outside, the public doesn’t hesitate to criticize quickly, question integrity, and make harsh judgments in hindsight.
Personally, my passion stems from having a family member who was able to accept help and turn their life around in part due to compassionate and knowledgeable intervention from a couple of police officers at a pivotal moment of crisis. I also have loved ones who are police officers, and better understanding of what it’s like for them has given me even more respect and consideration of the challenges we hand to our police.  I’ve never met a police officer who wasn’t motivated by just wanting to help people, and even beyond that, they are willing to risk their own safety to do so.

I truly believe that the combination of the many differing skills between social work and law enforcement is the future of both careers because of how we mutually benefit each other and those we serve.

How will law enforcement officers and the citizens they serve benefit from this training?
Law enforcement officers will benefit from this training because it is meant to give them additional knowledge and skills that make their jobs a little easier. Information that helps officers assess the situation and intervene can help with safety and efficiency. If it’s easier to tell what kind of crisis the person is having, it’s easier to know what to do to help. And if people are directed to the best options with the right information, they are less likely to be a repeat call. If they do continue to need help, a helpful experience with police will likely bring a greater sense of ease during the next police interaction. Citizens can benefit from more informed assessment and direction from officers, and the likelihood goes up that a person is going to get the kind of help they need.

As it is, the strains of having to act as the default mental health crisis care takes a toll on officers because they are being asked to do something that is outside their realm of expertise. It can be very time consuming to sort out all the issues when calls are stacking up. But as I teach in my classes, the first 3 minutes of the interaction with the person in crisis can save time and headaches in the long run if you can slow things down and use some of the skills we learn.

 Why is it critical for law enforcement to have a better understanding of mental health?

It is critical for law enforcement to have a better understanding of mental health because we have really good people in LE doing an incredibly difficult job well, but the pressure is high and training and resources are limited. The job can cause a significant physical and mental strain on any person over time, especially in the current climate, and one of the worst outcomes is that officers will leave if we don’t give them the right tools to do their jobs. The reality is that a high percentage of calls that officers respond to involve people who are having a mental health crisis, the jails are full of people with mental illness, and individuals in crisis will continue to call the police for help no matter how many gaps we try to fill in our system. When we know more we can do more and I’m happy to be helping out in any way that I can.