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CIT Programs Collaborating with Academic Researchers

A Q&A with Dr. Michael T. Compton, professor and director of research initiatives, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at The George Washington University

1. How did you get involved with the Georgia CIT program and what was your role?
I was initially invited to be a part of developing the CIT officer training curriculum in Georgia, in late 2004. I was invited to prepare the lecture on schizophrenia (given my background in schizophrenia research), and to help in identifying additional psychiatrists and other mental health professionals who could be involved in developing specific modules of the curriculum. Because of my strong interest in research, I then proposed doing some evaluations of the training curriculum.

2. What roles can academic researchers play in local or state CIT programs?
Academic researchers can contribute to CIT programs in a number of ways. They can help in developing modules for the curriculum, volunteer to give presentations during the training week, assist in identifying other presenters within the academic community, and conduct evaluations and research studies on the CIT program in their area.

3. Why should CIT programs be interested in collaborating with academic researchers?
Academic researchers can bring extensive knowledge of some of the topics covered in the CIT officer training curriculum, in areas such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, personality disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, psychiatric disorders of childhood and adolescence, developmental disabilities and substance abuse. Academic researchers can also assist in developing rigorous, scientifically valid approaches to evaluation and research of local or state CIT programs.

4. Can you offer any tips for how to identify the right person to contact at a local college or university?
Although one could call the department of psychiatry, department of psychology, or department of social work at a local college or university, it is often best to identify the right person through networking. Talking with leaders within those academic departments, or leaders in state or local chapters of professional organizations, like the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, or the National Association of Social Workers can also be a way to identify mental health professionals who may be well aligned with the goals of the CIT program. To put it most simply, just “asking around” might be the best approach to identifying someone at the local college or university—or a local chapter of a professional organization—who may be interested in collaborating.

5. How should NAMI members or their local partners in CIT programs approach a college or university researcher to collaborate or ask for assistance?
Of course, hearing from someone you know is usually more effective than learning about a new program from someone who is unfamiliar to you. In instances when a new introduction is necessary, I typically think that a telephone call, or better yet, an in-person meeting, is more effective than an initial contact via email.

6. If a CIT program has no funding to pay for a researcher’s time, are there still ways that they might collaborate?
Some researchers may be willing to volunteer a small portion of their time to conducting unfunded pilot studies with the local or state CIT program. Another very useful approach is for researchers or teachers in academic settings like public health schools or medical schools to identify students (e.g., Master of Public Health students) who may be interested in conducting research on CIT as part of their practicum experience or as their thesis. These students are often willing to conduct research on a voluntary basis or at very reasonable rates of pay. In addition to public health students, the CIT program could be a topic for research for criminal science students, social work students, or sociology students. To conduct larger-scale research, an established researcher usually needs to write a research grant proposal to obtain funding for more in-depth evaluations.

7. What incentive is there for a researcher to become involved with a CIT program? 
If an academic researcher is especially interested in CIT as a community-based approach to diverse mental health, public health, and systems-based problems, he or she may be willing and able to volunteer some time to assisting in research and evaluation. But most researchers must support their work through research grants. Thus, identifying potential funding agencies and grant mechanisms that would support a research study is the best approach. This would allow the researcher to dedicate a portion of his or her time to the project in a more committed way. Other benefits to the researcher might include publications (e.g., peer-reviewed research articles) that he or she could produce as a result of the research, as well as opportunities for graduate students, as mentioned previously.

8. At what point in the process of developing a CIT program should community partners consider approaching a researcher for assistance or collaboration?
I think the sooner the better. An academic researcher is more likely to be committed to ongoing research and evaluation if he or she was present and participating in the earliest phases of developing the CIT program.

Dr. Compton has conducted extensive research on the effectiveness of Georgia’s CIT training. He can be contacted at