Each year, two million people with mental illnesses are arrested and placed in jail.[i] People with mental illnesses often don’t need punishment — they need treatment. Law enforcement officers receive extensive training on how to handle criminals and dangerous situations. People with mental illnesses are not criminals, however, and special skills and techniques are needed to respond to a mental health crisis.
That is where Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training comes into play.
First developed in 1988, CIT training focuses on finding new solutions to mental health needs by building relationships between law enforcement, mental health professionals, substance use specialists, advocates, families, and, most importantly, the mental health consumers themselves. The goals of CIT include reducing stigma and further contact with the criminal justice system, improving the safety of both officers and citizens, and helping the latter connect with much-needed services and treatment.[ii]
This Friday, SMA is sponsoring an awards luncheon to honor five law enforcement officers, finalists from a pool of officers nominated by their supervisors, who have demonstrated excellence in utilizing their use of skills learned in CIT training. And, one of these officers will be named CIT Law Enforcement Officer of the Year.
These officers have shown a commitment to recognizing mental health crises and responding with empathy, helping citizens get the help that they need rather than arresting them. We are proud of our law enforcement officers, and this award is such a small step toward repaying them for their bravery and dedication to our communities.
To learn more about CIT training, visit https://www.citinternational.org/. SMA Healthcare has partnered with law enforcement to provide the 40-hour CIT training to officers and, in 2018, was awarded a Mental Health Awareness Training grant from SAMHSA to continue funding this important program.