MHRB Chairman William Nome presented awards to Lt. Sharon
Hissom of the Robinson Memorial Hospital Police Department and Officer Will
Scritchfield of Kent State University Police Services for their work with
persons who are in crisis or have mental illness.
“We thank Officer Scritchfield and Lt. Hissom and their
department leaders for understanding that the person in crisis is worthy of
understanding, compassion and a helping hand,” Nome said.
Crisis Intervention Training is a
national program created by the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The
training provides officers with the knowledge and tools to help de-escalate
people with mental illness or in crisis and to make referrals. The end result
is safety for the individual and the officer.
The program is sponsored in
Portage County by the Mental Health & Recovery Board in partnership with
the Portage County Sheriff’s Office. More than 200 law enforcement
professionals representing all local police departments in the county as well
as the sheriff’s office have been trained through the program.
Lt. Hissom is often called to the Robinson Emergency
Department when a patient arrives with mental health issues. The situations are
often tense and unpredictable for the patient as well as hospital staff.
A 35-year veteran of law enforcement work, Hissom uses her
CIT tools to de-escalate the level of the crisis and bring calm so the patient
receives the care he or she needs and Hissom’s hospital colleagues stay safe.
Since 2009 when she went through the training, annual arrests at the hospital
have dropped from 62 to five in 2012.
“Officers need tools to work with patients in crisis, which
we are seeing on a daily basis. CIT training has given us the additional
tools. I have found if the patient is communicating, I can keep a conversation
going for an extended period of time. This, often, has worked in calming that
person,” Hissom said.
Richard Blasko, an interim associate vice president at the hospital, points to
her as the reason for the progress. “Lt. Hissom’s efforts are directly
responsible for this dramatic reduction in arrests even during a time when we
have consistently seen an increase in police calls to our Emergency
Department,” Blasko said.
application of the CIT concepts and her leadership have shown compassion to
those who have mental illness, substance abuse or metal stress challenges and
has allowed them to receive needed medical care without fear of incarceration,”
A Kent resident,
Hissom’s personal career philosophy is to “do the very best at my job with
integrity and fairness.” She has been with the hospital police department since
2005 and has been steadily promoted. She oversees all aspects of the day shift
operations at Robinson.
worked for the Brimfield Police Department as a patrol officer and detective.
She also worked as a detective for the Portage County Sheriff’s Office where
she served as a detective including in the juvenile division and as a lieutenant
in the road division. Law enforcement work appeals to her skill at
solving puzzles. “I have always enjoyed putting puzzles together, seeing how
they fit. Law enforcement gave me that opportunity to ‘put the pieces
She has lived her
whole life in Kent. Hissom is a graduate of Kent Roosevelt High School and the
Ohio Police Officers Training Academy. She is also an A.L.I.C.E. instructor.
Knowing the right question to ask when faced with a person
who is in a mental health crisis earned Scritchfield the 2013 CIT Officer of
the Year Award.
“At KSU some students are under a lot of pressure to
succeed. They are placed in this new environment, often on their own for the
first time in their lives. It can be very stressful if things don't go
just right. CIT training allows me to better communicate with students who may
get to a crisis stage,” Scritchfield explained.
The KSU officer’s approach to his job extends to
non-students when it comes to working in a changeable setting like a
“It is also helpful in dealing with people in the
community who may suffer from a mental illness. Understanding the basics
of the right questions to ask has been valuable in these situations,”
KSU Assistant Police Chief Dean
Tondiglia nominated Scritchfield for his extraordinary follow through with
students and others that the officer has come in contact with during the last
“Many times Officer Scritchfield
worked hard to unite those in crisis with the proper community resources and
would follow-up to make certain the person was getting the care they needed. He
did this with the utmost compassion and dignity for the person,” Tondiglia wrote
in the nomination.
Tondiglia said Scritchfield has
had numerous cases this year where he has served as the point person to bring
together faculty, University Health Services and the community-based Coleman
Professional Services mental health agency to help a student in crisis.
His dialogue with the student and networking with the services meant the
student was referred for help rather than an arrest. Coleman is an agency that
receives funding from the Mental Health & Recovery Board to provide services
in Portage County.
Scritchfield also helped an
elderly woman who was driving without a license on campus and who appeared to
be extremely confused and in distress. Officer Scritchfield took the time to
contact her neighbors and adult protective services to initiate care for her.
“I believe it’s important for every officer to
understand that each person has their own threshold of what a crisis is to them
and although we may not understand it from their perspective, to that person it
is very real. CIT training helps officers understand this and gives
them some tools to help people during these times,” Scritchfield said.
resident of Uniontown, Scritchfield joined the KSU force in 2008. He previously
worked for the Uniontown Police Department and as a construction manager for
Schumacher Homes. He was graduated with honors from The University of Akron
where he earned a degree in Criminal Justice and also went through the police
When the housing downturn hit the
construction business, he decided to pursue his passion and train to be a
police officer. “I have always had a lot of respect for those who serve
in the military and in local law enforcement,” he said.
Scritchfield shares Officer of the
Year honor with colleagues at KSU: Resource Officer Michquel Penn who was
recognized in 2009 and Officer Jeff Futo who was honored in 2010.
The Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County is a county agency that plans, funds and monitors public mental health and addiction treatment services for Portage County residents. Mostly funded by local levies, the board also funds 24-hour emergency services to help residents in crisis and to provide assistance when communities experience crisis incidents. Services are funded through a network of community agencies: Coleman Professional Services, Townhall II, Children’s Advantage and Family and Community Services.