Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT): An Invaluable Community Resource
What is CIT?
The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program is a model community initiative designed to improve the outcomes of police interactions with people living with mental illnesses. CIT programs are built on local partnerships between law enforcement agencies, mental health providers and advocates. They involve individuals living with mental illnesses and families at all levels of decision-making and planning. CIT programs typically provide 40 hours of training for law enforcement on how to better respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis. Equally important, CIT programs provide a forum for partner organizations to coordinate diversion from jails to mental health services.
Community partnerships are the key to a successful CIT program. Only by working together can law enforcement, mental health providers and advocates improve the way a community responds to a mental health crisis.
- In Carson City ask for the Mobile Outreach Safety Team (MOST) before CIT trained officers, as they have more expertise resolving mental health emergencies.
- MOST pairs a clinical social worker with a police officer to create a skilled intervention team for persons who suffer from mental illness and are in crisis. The MOST team responds to psychiatric emergencies and maintenance check-ups on previous mental hospital patients. The intent is to reduce the imprisonment of local mentally ill citizens while simultaneously increasing the safety of the general public.
- In Carson City the Forensic Assessment Services Triage Team (FASTT) also helps in a mental health crisis.
- FASTT helps reduce jail recidivism among those with mental illness and/or addiction by coordinating with diverse groups to carry out early intervention and wrap around services designed to get them back on track to healthy, productive lives and meaningful connections in their communities.
- What does CIT Training Include?
CIT for Youth program teaches law enforcement officers to connect youth with mental health needs to effective services and supports in their community. The goal is to intervene early in emerging mental health issues and prevent youth from becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.
- CIT for Youth Resource Center provides comprehensive information about starting a CIT for Youth program.
- The Stepping Up Initiative is a national effort to divert people with mental illness from jails and into treatment.
- Law enforcement and Mental Health.
- Guide to building community partnerships.
- For detailed, step-by-step information on starting a CIT program in your community, the University of Memphis CIT Center has comprehensive resources to help you start a program, including a step-by-step guide to building partnerships and a model curriculum. These resources were developed in partnership with NAMI, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and CIT International and with the input of CIT programs nationwide.
Jail Diversion In Your Area
The high rate of individuals with mental illness that are incarcerated in our jails has become an important national issue. Up to 60% of adults in jails have mental health problems, and it is estimated that three-quarters of those also have a substance abuse issue. Unfortunately, due to lack of alternatives, jails have become the largest mental health treatment facilities in the nation.
Our inadvertent housing of the mentally ill in our criminal justice system has many costs. Individuals with mental illness tend to be incarcerated for longer periods of time, and are at higher risk for re-incarceration upon release. Treatment in jail is often costly and ineffective, as upon an inmate’s release, the community does not see improved health of the individual or public safety.
In the past several years, a national movement called the Stepping up Initiative was developed in partnership with the National Association of Counties (NACo), the American Psychiatric Association,and the Council of State Governments in an effort to reduce the number of individuals with mental illness in our nation’s jails and prisons. Nevada has become a Stepping Up State with strong support from local, regional, and state officials. The Boards of County Commissioners and Supervisors inCarson, Douglas, Lyon, Churchill, Washoe and Churchill Counties have all endorsed the Stepping up Initiative, stating that jail diversion is a priority in their communities. These counties are focused onthe goal of diverting individuals with mental illness from jails, and instead connecting them to treatment in the community.
Jail diversion efforts in rural Northern Nevada and Washoe County efforts have so far been successful.Douglas, Lyon, Churchill, Carson, and Washoe Counties all have Mobile Outreach Safety Teams (MOST)consisting of a clinician and officer, riding in the community at least one day a week. Carson City has provided Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), a 40-hour mental health training, to its officers and first-responders annually for the past several years. Churchill just completed their first community 40 hour CIT, and Douglas is planning a CIT to be held next spring 2017.
Our communities have also worked to bring mental health and case management services into the jails. Carson and Douglas Counties both have treatment groups available to inmates and a jail reentry case management called the Forensic Assessment Services Triage Team (FASTT) in their jails. Lyon County also has their own FASTT and are in the process of setting up groups as well. Finally, Churchill plans to develop a FASTT as soon as their new jail is built. Our region has prioritized jail diversion,and is committed to supporting incarcerated individuals with mental illness, and further reducing individuals with mental illness in our jails. For more information on the Stepping up Initiative and jail diversion in general, go to stepuptogether.org.
CIT Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve heard that CIT is a great training program. How do I get myself or my law enforcement agency trained?
Most CIT programs are started and sustained at the local level. That means that each community builds its own partnerships and conducts its own training. If there is a program in your local area, you can find out about it by contacting your local NAMI Affiliate or by searching the University of Memphis’ CIT National Directory.
If there’s not a CIT program in your community, you can start one. However, it’s important to keep in mind that CIT is not just a training program. While one outcome of creating a CIT program is training for law enforcement, training is not the only goal. It’s very important to go through the process of building partnerships with your law enforcement agency and mental health providers, as well as mapping out the problems and solutions in your community. These partnerships will help you understand what resources are available in a crisis and make it possible to plan effectively for diversion. They will also sustain the program over the long term, improve your chances for getting funding and most importantly, transform hearts and minds. To learn more about the importance of community partnerships and how to build them, go to www.nami.org/cittoolkit and read “Community Partnerships.”
But I thought CIT was like Family-to-Family. Why can’t I just get my officers trained?
CIT is not like Family-to-Family. NAMI does not “own” the CIT program, so we cannot run a train-the-trainer. However, NAMI Affiliates have been partners in local CIT programs nationwide since the first program was started in Memphis is 1988.
If your community cannot conduct its own training, one good alternative is to approach a neighboring community with a CIT program and ask to be included in their training, or to band together with several communities to start a regional program. Whatever approach you take, you will still need to develop partnerships between law enforcement, mental health providers and the NAMI Affiliate in order to be successful in the long term.
The University of Memphis CIT Center does sometimes work with communities to provide a train-the-trainer. In order to ensure the success of the program, they require that communities they work with do a significant amount of preparation building their local partnerships before attending the training. For more information, go to their website.
Is there a CIT program in my city/state? When is the next training in my area?
At this time, there isn’t a national calendar for CIT trainings. If there is a program in your city or state, you can usually find out about it by contacting your local NAMI Affiliate or NAMI State Organization. You can also contact your local police or sheriff’s department and ask; if they aren’t part of a CIT program, you can tell them how much it would benefit the community! Finally, you can check the CIT National Directory on the University of Memphis website.
Where can I see a copy of the CIT curriculum?
The University of Memphis CIT Center, in partnership with NAMI, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and CIT International has developed a national curriculum model and step-by-step guide for starting your own CIT program. The national curriculum model includes a curriculum outline and examples of lesson plans and PowerPoint presentations. While it is important to follow the general guidelines of the curriculum, most communities will adapt a curriculum to their local needs, using local experts to develop and teach the course.
You can also get a copy of a curriculum and see CIT in action by attending training in a neighboring state or community or in Memphis. To find a CIT program near you or to learn more about the Memphis training, contact the University of Memphis CIT Center at (901) 678-5523 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve heard about a CIT conference. Does NAMI host it? How do I get a scholarship to attend?
CIT International hosts an annual CIT International Conference. The local NAMI Affiliate and State Organization in the host city often works with CIT International to plan the conference, and NAMI’s national office usually helps promote the conference. However, NAMI’s national organization is not the host of the conference.
Some years, NAMI has been able to offer scholarships to a limited number of individuals living with mental illness and their family members to attend the conference. Our ability to offer these scholarships is contingent on our annual budget. To find out whether there are scholarships available during a particular year, contact Laura Usher at email@example.com.
How do I subscribe to the CIT in Action electronic newsletter?
NAMI’s CIT in Action is a quarterly electronic newsletter that provides news and information about CIT and other criminal justice/mental health issues. To subscribe, go to www.nami.org and log in (or create a free account). Once you’re logged in, click on “My Information,” then click “Add Subscription” on the right hand side. You’ll get a drop down menu of newsletters. Select “CIT in Action” from the list. Enter today’s date as the start date, and leave the end date field blank.
How can NAMI’s national office help me in my CIT efforts?
As mentioned above, NAMI doesn’t conduct a train-the-trainer program for CIT. However, NAMI’s CIT Center offers a variety of services:
- Resources and information: A wealth of information is available online at the NAMI CIT Center website. Our CIT Advocacy Toolkit provides a variety of resources for starting up your local CIT program. Finally, our If there’s something missing from our website that would be helpful to you, please let us know!
- Connections with other CIT programs. If you are looking for information about CIT in your community or state, we may be able to connect you with someone local who can help.
- A quarterly CIT e-newsletter, CIT in Action. To subscribe, go to www.nami.org/subscribe and log in (or create a free account). Once you’re logged in, click on “My Information,” then click “Add Subscription” on the right hand side. You’ll get a drop down menu of newsletters. Select “CIT in Action” from the list. Enter today’s date as the start date, and leave the end date field blank.
- A mailing list. The forensic group is an email list that we use to distribute urgent calls to action, announcements about new resources and events, and requests for information related to CIT and the criminalization of mental illness. If you would like to subscribe, send an email to Laura Usher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Advice and assistance: You are always welcome to email or call if you have a question or a problem.
Where else can I find information and assistance?
There are several national organizations that provide information and assistance to CIT programs.