National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Mental Health Learning Sites Aim to Teach Effective Intervention Techniques
By Brendan McLean
To help communities in the
By providing a national picture, the Learning Sites help local, state and federal policymakers and criminal justice and mental health professionals see what works around the country and what can be implemented in their own communities. Because each community is unique, the specific needs of towns and cities vary.
Communities that are struggling with problems resulting from interactions between people living with mental illness and law enforcement can take preventative measures to avoid negative situations by reaching out to the Mental Health Learning Sites to get guidance on creating a CIT or other specialized policing response program.
Detective Ron Bruno of the Salt Lake City Police Department explains this process. “Once a community has interest regarding SPRs [specialized policing responses], Salt Lake City PD will send its personnel to deliver a presentation on this concept. After further interest is developed, communities are invited to attend trainings and see firsthand the benefits of these partnerships [with Mental Health Learning Sites].”
Although the overarching goals of the training sites are the same, there are slight methodological differences in the training and implementation of specialized policing response programs. Whereas the
The Houston Police Department, which requires all new members of its police force to go through mental health training as part of their CIT program, also has a co-responder program, known as a Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT), which partners an officer with a licensed mental health professional. According to Senior Officer Frank Webb of the Houston Police Department, “The vast majority of calls related to individuals with mental illnesses are handled by CIT officers. Last year, we had over 25,000 CIT calls. CIRT responded to 4,500.” Thus, while having mental health professionals available is beneficial, it is vital that the majority of officers need to be trained in CIT in order to handle the vast amount of calls that are received pertaining to handling individuals living with mental illness.