House passes Noret bill offering police officers options in training to recognize mental health issues


STATE HOUSE –— The House of Representatives today passed legislation introduced by Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick) that offers new training options for law enforcement officers in recognizing mental health issues.

The bill (2023-H 5881A) would amend an existing law passed by the General Assembly in 2016 and sponsored by then-Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) that requires police training on recognizing the possible existence of mental health disorders and substance use disorders. The bill would add the option of the International Certified Crisis Intervention Team training program, or other best practice training recognized by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to the existing requirement that the course of instruction comply with the certified National Council of Behavioral Health Mental Health First Aid Program.

“Training evolves; we learn what works, what doesn’t, and what we can improve on,” said Representative Noret, who served for 20 years as a Coventry police officer. “This bill serves as another option for officers for mental health training while utilizing federal money that has been made available to law enforcement agencies in Rhode Island. The more varied the training, the better the law enforcement officer is equipped to handle different incidents that occur.”

The Rhode Island Office of the Mental Health Advocate, as well as the Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights testified in favor of the legislation.

Megan Clingham, director of the Office of the Mental Health Advocate, wrote, “Crisis intervention training is an internationally recognized, evidence-based program which has been proven to improve outcomes for people in crisis during interactions with police officers. The Office of the Mental Health Advocate has had the privilege of participating in the CIT academies which have been provided to police departments and first responders throughout Rhode Island over the past couple of years. Countless officers have expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to receive this training and to be better equipped to serve the public. This training literally saves lives.”

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.