CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — The Cranston Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team will receive half a million dollars in federal funding, thanks in part to U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.

Officials said the $500,000 grant will be used to support the team’s response to mental health calls. Members will also get training from mental health experts at Thundermist Health, Gateway Emergency Services, and Comprehensive Community Action Program.

According to Capt. Justin Dutra, of the 75,000 calls the police department fields per year, many are from individuals suffering mental health emergencies.

Since the Crisis Intervention Team was launched last year, Dutra said they have responded to 500 calls, and about half of those people went on to sign up for mental health programs.

“They’re calling the right people now. They’re not calling for fire and police every time they have an issue,” Dutra said.

Whitehouse secured the funding in his Law Enforcement De-Escalation Training Act, which he co-sponsored with Texas Senator John Cornyn.

“Police are often first on the scene when someone is dealing with a mental health or behavioral health issue,” Whitehouse said. “These measures will ensure Rhode Island police officers have the right training for life-saving crisis intervention and de-escalation and the proper resources to connect people in crisis with the help they need.”

Last summer, Whitehouse and Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed announced $1.2 million in funding to support crisis intervention training efforts for police departments across the state.

Cranston Mayor Ken Hopkins said the program is innovative and hopes to see more efforts like it across the state.