The Edgartown police department received an advanced certificate for mental illness response last week, after the entire force successfully completed two training seminars and met hundreds of best-practice law enforcement standards over the past two years.

The training is part of an initiative called the One Mind Campaign, developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police that pledges to improve responses for those suffering from mental illness in local communities. There are approximately 500 departments worldwide that have met the standards, and approximately 20 in the state, including the West Tisbury department.

Edgartown received its award certificate last week.

“This is something we are really proud of,” said police chief Bruce McNamee. “It seems police are called more often for people with mental illness — and the traditional police training was not sufficient to deal with these kinds of conditions.”

In order to join the campaign and meet the required standards, a team of officers attended a two-week long crisis intervention seminar. The seminar involved role-playing scenarios in which the team of officers had to respond to different incidents of mental illness. Chief McNamee said it was a challenge because of the variety of ways mental illness can manifest response scenarios.

“They bring in role players who are brilliant at training for different illnesses, just to at least see it, to get a sense for it,” Mr. McNamee said.

The second seminar, called Mental Health First Aid, was recently completed by officers and teaches warning signs and risk factors for dealing with mental illness in both crisis, and non-crisis, circumstances.

“We’re receiving training that we’ve never had in the past, and working to understand that it’s not just a run-of-the-mill call of the service,” Mr. McNamee said. “Some of [mental illness response] is trying to not just diagnose, but recognize that this person has a psychological challenge and to not escalate the situation.”

Whereas EMS professionals generally respond to incidents involving mental illness off-Island, Chief McNamee noted that on Martha’s Vineyard the police are often the first responders. That’s why he believed the training was so important here, adding that Oak Bluffs is working toward the training, and that he wouldn’t be surprised if other departments did so as well.

“It’s different here on the Island,” Mr. McNamee said. “Off-Island some of that stuff is handled by EMS, but the police are more active participants with those situations here. The officers have a much more active role in trying to facilitate care for that person. That was eye-opening for me.”