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Tracing the Path of Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) and the Innovation of the Memphis Model

Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) has emerged as a beacon of hope in the realm of public safety, transforming the way first responders and public safety personnel approach mental health crises. In honor of this being the week for the 2023 CIT international conference I thought that this would be a good time to look back. Let's journey through the historical evolution of CIT, highlighting the revolutionary Memphis Model and exploring its core elements as defined by CIT International.

The Genesis of Crisis Intervention Training

The seeds of CIT were sown during the 1960s, an era marked by growing awareness of the complexities surrounding mental health crisis management within emergency settings. Traditional law enforcement tactics often fell short when confronted with individuals in mental distress, sparking a pressing need for a more compassionate and specialized approach.

The Memphis Model: A Paradigm Shift

In the late 1980s, Memphis, Tennessee, emerged as a crucible of change. The Memphis Police Department, in conjunction with mental health professionals, community advocates, and those with lived experience, unveiled the groundbreaking Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program. The Memphis Model, an embodiment of innovation, forever transformed how responders navigate mental health crises.

Key Elements of the Memphis Model

  1. Collaborative Training: The Memphis Model, in harmony with the tenets of CIT International, underscores the importance of collaboration between law enforcement, mental health providers, and community stakeholders. This multidisciplinary approach ensures all parties are armed with comprehensive knowledge and specialized skills to address mental health crises adeptly.

  2. Specialized Training: Acknowledging that traditional police training is insufficient, the Memphis Model elevates CIT training by incorporating specialized education. Officers are imparted with insights into mental health intricacies, advanced de-escalation tactics, and effective communication strategies. This empowers them to respond with empathy, patience, and an unwavering focus on ensuring the safety of all involved.

  3. Community Involvement: The Memphis Model thrives on community engagement, echoing CIT International's core emphasis on involving community members and mental health organizations. This inclusive approach guarantees that responses are culturally sensitive, equitable, and attuned to the distinct needs of the community.

  4. Diversion to Treatment: Central to the Memphis Model is the philosophy of diverting individuals experiencing mental health crises from the criminal justice system to appropriate mental health treatment. This ethos encourages a shift toward healing and rehabilitation, breaking the cycle of criminalization for individuals in crisis.

Crisis Intervention Team International's Core Elements

CIT International, an organization dedicated to promoting CIT programs globally, emphasizes the following core elements back in September of 2007. They still use them today although they have grown to exponentially since that time.

  • Collaboration

  • Training

  • Community and statewide partnerships

  • Policy development

  • Data collection and analysis

  • Continuous quality improvement

Wrapping Up

The trajectory of Crisis Intervention Training showcases a profound evolution in responding to mental health crises. The Memphis Model, a pioneering approach deeply rooted in collaboration, specialized training, community engagement, and diversion, has revolutionized crisis response paradigms.

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