Law Enforcement officers are the first to be called on when there is a crisis; often this involves a person with a mental illness.
Sometimes these high intensity situations have resulted in the injury or even death of community members and officers. Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training is effective in enhancing awareness of mental health issues and de-escalation tactics. CIT training is forty-hour training for law enforcement officers.
This training provides information on a variety of mental health topics including awareness of mental illness, suicidality, autism, developmental disability, community resources, and de-escalation tactics.
CIT training is intended to decrease the chances of injuries and death. It can also build more unity between the community and law enforcement. People with a mental illness can be given the appropriate mental health treatment rather than going to jail or returning to the streets. Having CIT trained officers also allows community members to become more confident in reporting crisis situations.
Having mental health training allows law enforcement officers to be better prepared to respond safely to those crisis situations involving community members with mental health needs.
In Perry County, we have several CIT trained law enforcement officers in the city and county.
Community Counseling Center and several other local agencies, such as the Perry County Sheriff’s Department, local hospitals, other non-profits, community members, and the Southeast Missouri Law Enforcement Academy, have collaborated to develop and implement a week-long training aimed at raising awareness of mental health issues and enhancing de-escalation tactics.
They have invested a significant amount of time and resources to provide this free training to law enforcement officers. The Southeast Missouri CIT council meets monthly to collaborate and plan for CIT training in addition to staffing difficult cases to provide the best solutions possible to community members and streamlining the process.
CIT formed to provide training to police departments, its mission is to “create and sustain more effective interactions among law enforcement, mental health care providers, individuals with mental illness, their families and communities and also to reduce the stigma of mental illness” (CIT International, 2016).
The first of the core elements are partnerships among law enforcement, advocacy, and mental health providers.
If a community member in our area is experiencing a mental health crisis or has a history of mental illness and a law enforcement officer needs to be called it is important to ask for a law enforcement officer that is CIT trained.
Community members can be confident that the CIT officer responding has been trained to be sensitive to mental health issues and crisis situations.
By Cindy Blacklidge | Republic Monitor