Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) is a specialized program designed to improve law enforcement's response to individuals experiencing mental health crises. CIT emphasizes de-escalation techniques, communication skills, and an understanding of mental health disorders. The primary goal is to divert individuals away from the criminal justice system and towards appropriate mental health services, promoting overall community well-being. CIT began in 2008 in Memphis TN through the work of Sam Cochran and Randy Dupont. Although there are many models and variances of CIT, the Memphis model is the most widely studied model. If you see a study citing statistics and success rates it is most likely the Memphis Model.
The Power of Partnerships:
CIT recognizes that law enforcement agencies cannot address mental health crises effectively in isolation. By forging partnerships with various stakeholders, CIT creates a network of support that enhances community responses to crises. These partnerships include mental health professionals, community organizations, social service agencies, local government, and individuals with lived experience. Each partner brings unique expertise and perspectives to the table, having different resources to contribute.
Defining the Mission:
Through partnerships, CIT helps clarify the mission. By collaborating with mental health professionals, officers gain valuable insights into the complexities of mental health issues and learn alternative strategies for crisis response. This knowledge empowers them to better assess situations, de-escalate crises, and connect individuals with appropriate resources, ultimately reducing the potential for violence or unnecessary arrests.
Community Engagement and Empowerment:
Partnerships formed through CIT foster community engagement and empower individuals within the community. By involving community organizations, advocacy groups, and individuals with lived experience, CIT ensures that the voices and needs of those affected by mental health issues are heard and incorporated into crisis response strategies. This collaborative approach builds trust between law enforcement and the community, ultimately promoting more effective and compassionate crisis intervention. An beautiful but unintended consequence of these partnerships is that a rich CIT program will destigmatize mental health issues within the Law Enforcement agency itself. Working routinely with theses partners, officers feel more comfortable reaching out to them for personal reasons. Sometimes it is about family and sometimes its about them.
Creating Specialized Crisis Response Teams:
A significant outcome of CIT partnerships is the creation of specialized crisis response teams. These teams often consist of law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, and other relevant stakeholders. By working together, these teams can provide a coordinated and comprehensive response to mental health crises. The involvement of mental health professionals ensures that individuals in crisis receive appropriate care and support, reducing the reliance on law enforcement as the sole responder. This happens because as agencies become more involved and actually understand how it impacts the community and departmental resources.
Access to Resources and Support:
Partnerships established through CIT facilitate access to a wide range of resources and support services within the community. By collaborating with social service agencies, mental health organizations, and community programs, law enforcement can connect individuals in crisis to the necessary resources for ongoing support and rehabilitation. This collaborative effort helps break the cycle of crisis and encourages a more holistic approach to mental health care. I can not tell you the number of times in trainings I have had officers come up to me and say, “I didn’t know we had that here.” Most officers have little knowledge about programs that are operating in their community. This program gives them exposure that they ordinarily would not have.
Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) is a powerful tool that equips law enforcement with the skills to respond effectively to mental health crises. However, its true strength lies in the partnerships it cultivates within the community. By fostering collaborations with mental health professionals, community organizations, and individuals with lived experience, CIT ensures a compassionate, holistic, and community-centered approach to crisis intervention. These partnerships enhance law enforcement's ability to provide support, connect individuals with appropriate resources, and promote overall community well-being. Together, through strong partnerships, we can build a more compassionate and resilient society