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CIT in Action – Vol. 2, Issue 2
Feature Story: CIT on Campus
College and university campuses around the country are embracing CIT as a way to better serve students experiencing a crisis, integrate their services with the broader community, and maintain campus safety. We spoke with law enforcement agencies on several campuses to learn more about the unique opportunities and challenges faced by CIT programs on campus.
The campus environment is unique in that young people on campus are at an age when the onset of mental illness often occurs, and the stress of the transition to college life can often trigger depression or other mental illnesses. When a crisis occurs, CIT can help officers respond effectively: Leslie Wiete, Patrol Sergeant at Purdue University says, “CIT gives me the tools I need to deal with suicidal students, and taught me how to ask the right questions.”
At the same time, campuses may be an ideal environment for CIT because they already have in place some of the collaborations necessary for CIT to succeed. Alan Gutierrez, chief of police at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, told us that CIT was a natural fit for their campus: campus police had been holding monthly meetings with the Dean of Students office, the counseling service and other campus offices, to collaborate on campus safety issues. After introducing CIT, they found these monthly meetings a useful way to ensure that the whole campus community collaborated to make CIT work.
Gutierrez also pointed out that collaboration with off-campus groups is a priority; the university is part of a broader community, and Gutierrez would like to bring CIT to neighboring law enforcement agencies so that students and community members will have the benefits of CIT whether they are on or off campus. Finally, campus police forces are often specifically interested in community policing, which uses proactive strategies to prevent crime. Since CIT helps officers intervene safely and effectively in a crisis, it may help campuses prevent crime and incarceration.
While the opportunities and challenges of a campus CIT program may be unique, officers emphasize that the benefits of a CIT program are similar whether it’s located on or off campus. Campus law enforcement agencies are building the same kind of collaborations and using the same strategies as other law enforcement agencies. Officers emphasize the importance of relationships with NAMI, the mental health community and other law enforcement agencies to initiating and maintaining CIT. They praise the Memphis CIT model as a way to introduce the concept of CIT. At Radford University, in Virginia, Lt. Micheal Baker recommends sending an officer with some decision-making authority to Memphis to be trained on the fundamentals of CIT. At the University of Missouri- St. Louis, Sgt. JT Thompson recommends selecting officers for CIT training based on their temperament and interest in helping someone in crisis.
We are encouraged to hear about campus communities embracing CIT, and would like to learn about other campus programs. To comment, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, you can contact any of the officers mentioned in this story. To contact Sgt. Wiete at Purdue University, call 765-494-8221. To contact Chief Gutierrez at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, call 361-825-6002. To contact Lt. Baker at Radford, call 540-831-5867. To contact Sgt. Thompson at the University of Missouri, call 314-226-5532.
Advocacy Spotlight: Talking Points
The NAMI CIT Center is working on developing resources for a CIT Advocacy Toolkit. The toolkit will be designed to help NAMI state organizations and affiliates, law enforcement agencies, and mental health providers advocate for CIT in their communities. As we develop materials, we will let you know about them in CIT in Action. CIT Talking Points is the first in the toolkit.
Whether it’s talking to the media, introducing CIT to your local law enforcement agency or making a convincing argument to your state legislators, advocates need to be prepared to speak clearly and concisely about the importance of CIT.
CIT Talking Points
CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) is a model program designed to improve the outcomes of police interactions with people with mental illnesses.
CIT is a community collaboration, not just a training program.
CIT officers are trained to prevent crises, and to de-escalate a crisis when it occurs. But, CIT is not just training. CIT is only effective when law enforcement, the mental health system and consumer and family advocates collaborate to make sure that when officers divert someone, the treatment system is willing and able to provide appropriate treatment.
CIT works for law enforcement.
CIT provides officers tools for responding more safely and compassionately to people with serious mental illness. CIT gives officers options other than arrest and incarceration when they encounter people with mental illness. It improves public safety and reduces officer injuries, while reducing the amount of time officers spend dealing with mental disturbance calls. CIT officers report that they are more satisfied with CIT than with other jail diversion approaches.
CIT works for consumers.
CIT improves consumers’ safety: through the use of de-escalation techniques, officers can help prevent a crisis from deteriorating to the point where the use of force is likely. When they encounter a CIT officer, consumers are more likely to be transferred to treatment, to stay out of jails and emergency rooms, and receive treatment in the community.
CIT frees up public resources.
By diverting people with serious mental illness from jails, CIT helps ensure that jails are used to incarcerate criminals, not people who require treatment. CIT also saves public resources by preventing people from deteriorating to the point they are incarcerated or require costly emergency services. Finally, CIT saves police time and money by creating an efficient system for transferring people from law enforcement custody to mental health treatment.
Be concise: If your message is short and simple to understand, decision-makers are more likely to hear you.
Tell your personal story, or connect CIT to local events, to be most effective. For example, if a crisis situation in your community leads to the death of an officer or a consumer, explain how CIT might prevent similar tragedies in the future.
Tailor your message to your audience: Decision-makers will be more receptive if you give them information that is relevant to them, delivered by someone they can relate to. For example, if you are talking with law enforcement, try to find a law enforcement advocate of CIT in your community or in a neighboring city or state, to make the case for you.
Present yourself as someone who can help: Everyone responds more favorably to those who approach them in a positive, constructive way, as opposed to those who approach them critically. For example, with law enforcement, it is always important to recognize how difficult the job of an officer is, and to present CIT as a strategy that can make that job easier.
News from the States
NAMI Indiana Honors Department of Corrections Commissioner
At its annual convention, NAMI Indiana presented NAMI National’s Excellence in Community Mental Health Service Award to Indiana Department of Corrections Commissioner J. David Donahue. Commissioner Donahue has collaborated with NAMI Indiana to develop and implement a training course on mental illnesses for correctional officers. So far, over 700 corrections officers have been trained in several facilities. The 10-hour training program includes causes and treatments of mental illness, how to recognize symptoms, and how to interact with people experiencing psychiatric symptoms. Preliminary outcomes are very promising: since the February 2004 training at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility Secure Housing Unit, use of force among those trained has decreased by 70%. To learn more about this effort, contact Kellie Meyer, M.A., criminal justice director, NAMI Indiana, email@example.com or visit the Indiana Department of Corrections website.
Casper Initiates Wyoming’s First CIT Program
Casper, WYis set to hold the state’s first CIT training in February 2008. The Central Wyoming Crisis Intervention Team (CWCIT) has grown out of a successful collaboration between NAMI Casper, NAMI Wyoming, Natrona County Sherriff’s Department, Casper Police Department, Mills Police Department, Wyoming Behavioral Institute, Central Wyoming Counseling Center, Brain Injury Association of Wyoming, and UPLIFT Wyoming. CWCIT plans to train 19 officers in the first training session, and will hold two more trainings in 2008. CWCIT will serve as a first step toward implementing CIT statewide in Wyoming. To learn more about CIT in Wyoming contact Jane Johnson at 307-265-2573 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NAMI Maine Wins SAMHSA’s Science and Service Award for CIT
In September, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration announced that NAMI Maine was one the recipients of the agency’s inaugural Science and Service Awards. These awards “recognize exemplary implementation of evidence-based interventions to prevent and treat mental illnesses and substance abuse.” NAMI Maine received the award for it’s involvement in bringing CIT to Augusta. Augusta’s CIT program is the most recent in an effort that has brought CIT to all but four counties in Maine. Through NAMI Maine’s efforts, an 8 hour presentation at the training academy builds awareness of CIT and provides law enforcement officers with information to sign up for the full training. To learn more about CIT in Maine, contact Karen Twomey, Criminal Justice Coordinator at NAMI Maine, at Karen@namimaine.org or 800-464-5767.
We Need Your Help!
CIT in Action is in a period of transition. Please let us know what you think of our newsletter and send us any suggestions for improving it. Also, continue to send us your ideas and stories for upcoming editions. Does your community have an innovative program? Did you hear about CIT in the news? Do you know about a new research study on jail diversion? Let us know your thoughts and ideas by emailing Laura Usher at email@example.com