The New York Police Department is taking part in a training program meant to help patrol officers better handle the growing number of interactions they have with people in emotional or mental distress. New York's program is built off a nationally recognized instructional model, called Crisis Intervention Training, that uses mental health consumers, professionals and police officials to train officers on how to recognize signs of mental illness, respond to such calls and empathize with someone in the throes of a crisis. Research has shown its use is associated with higher confidence among officers, better recognition of mental illness and fewer uses of force. Earlier this summer the NYPD launched a four-day program that will be incorporated into standard training and issued a requirement that officers take annual refresher courses, officials said. The department already has a small, highly-trained unit of officers for mental health cases, but the training is meant to give more cops a better chance at deescalating crisis situations. Officers in the training are evaluated in real time by a clinical psychologist and instructors during scenes portrayed by John Jay College of Criminal Justice actors. One of two city mental health drop-off centers, designed to give police an alternative place to send people in crisis besides jail or an emergency room, will open in the neighborhood later this year.