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CIT in Action – Vol. 2, Issue 1

October 2007

Welcome back to NAMI’s electronic newsletter on Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) and other forensic issues, CIT in Action! After a hiatus, we are pleased to reintroduce CIT in Action, starting with special coverage of the Third Annual CIT National Conference. As in the past, your feedback and suggestions for future stories are welcome! Please note: CIT in Action is distributed through NAMI’s forensic list-serv; we also use this list-serv for information and announcements about jail diversion and other forensic issues. If you wish to subscribe or unsubscribe, please send an email to

1. Third Annual CIT National Conference a Success!

Keynote Speaker Promotes Federal Grant Program
“Statewide Models of Change Through CIT”
“Race, Mental Illness and Policing: Benefiting from Crisis Intervention Team Training”
“Policy and Legal Challenges in the Wake of Virginia Tech”
“An Unlikely Union”: Seminole County, Florida’s Collaborative Approach to CIT

2. Justice Department Announces 2007 Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grants
3. NAMI Sacramento Tackles Suicide Epidemic in Law Enforcement
4. Collingswood, New Jersey Starts State’s First CIT Program
5. We Need Your Help!
6. Useful Links

1. Third Annual CIT National Conference a Success!

Memphis, Tennessee hosted a successful Third Annual CIT National Conference in August, featuring over 80 workshops and drawing over 1100 attendees from across the United States and internationally. During the opening session, conference attendees filled the ballroom at the Cook Convention Center to overflowing. A heartfelt thanks to Major Sam Cochran, Dr. Randy Dupont, and all the Memphis CIT officers who worked so hard to make this conference a success! We were only able to attend a small fraction of the exciting workshops that were offered, but here are some of the highlights, as seen from our perspective:

Keynote Speaker Promotes Federal Grant Program

The conference’s keynote speaker was Ruby Qazilbash, Senior Policy Advisor for Substance Abuse and Mental Health with the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), U.S. Department of Justice. Ms. Qazilbash communicated the strong support of BJA Administrator Domingo Herraiz for CIT and other collaborative programs to reduce the unnecessary incarceration of people with mental illness.  She described programs within the BJA that help fund programs of this nature and urged attendees to apply for the Department of Justice’s Justice and Mental Health Collaboration grants program, which funds state and local programs for police training, reentry services, mental health and substance abuse treatment in correctional facilities, and mental health courts. To learn more about the grant program, click here. To apply for this and other federal grants, visit, which provides access to all US government grant programs. For more information about this year’s grant recipients, see “Justice Department Announces 2007 Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grants,” below.

“Statewide Models of Change Through CIT”

This workshop featured a discussion of statewide CIT programs in Kentucky, Georgia, Florida and Ohio. NAMI National Board member and NAMI Kentucky Executive Director Jim Dailey presented on the status of CIT in Kentucky, including their new state law which endorses a specific model of 40-hour CIT training, based on the Memphis Model. Together with Denise Spratt, Kentucky’s Statewide CIT Coordinator, Jim is actively working throughout the Bluegrass state to help local jurisdictions create CIT programs. David Lushbaugh, also on the NAMI National Board and former president of NAMI Georgia, discussed Georgia’s statewide program, which was started as a collaborative effort between the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and NAMI-Georgia and has led to the training of hundreds of law enforcement officers in the state.      Michele Saunders, Executive Director of Florida Partners in Crisis, described the grassroots evolution of CIT programs in her state. After seeing the success of CIT initiatives in several Florida counties, a statewide coalition was established to provide technical assistance to counties just getting started with CIT, and to promote fidelity to the Memphis Model. Today, CIT programs exist in numerous counties and communities throughout the state. Finally, Dr. Fred Frese, NAMI National Board Member, took the opportunity to recognize some of the figures responsible for bringing CIT to Ohio, including Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Lt. Mike Woody. Ohio’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence plays a key role in helping local communities implement CIT program.  As with Florida, these programs are now in place in communities throughout the state. The talk was followed by a lively question and answer session.  

"Race, Mental Illness and Policing: Benefiting from Crisis Intervention Team Training"

This workshop presented some strategies for CIT officers to work effectively in racial and ethnicminority communities. The presenters included Dr. KB Turner and Dr. Leon Caldwell, both on the faculty at the University of Memphis; and Dr. Yolanda Harper, Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs at the University of Memphis. The presenters discussed the barriers that traditionally underserved populations face in accessing treatment and the ways that different groups may talk about their symptoms. They also discussed culture-bound syndromes, which are illnesses that occur specifically in one cultural group and are oftentied to traditionally recognized mental illnesses, but culturally interpreted and experienced. Finally, the presenters suggested that officers should not be intimidated by the concept of “cultural competence”: a great deal can be accomplished by admitting your own biases, letting go of assumptions and listening patiently to individuals as they tell their stories. In order to draw out an individual’s history and experience, they suggest a set of non-threatening questions such as: “Where is your family from?” “What languages do you speak?” “Who do you live with?” For more information on related issues, please visit NAMI’s Multicultural Action Center or the National Association of Black Social Workers.

“Policy and Legal Challenges in the Wake of Virginia Tech”

Ron Honberg, NAMI Director of Policy and Legal Affairs, discussed the public policy fallout from the Virginia Tech tragedy. His presentation emphasized that quick responses like strengthening campus security or broadening gun laws will do very little to address the underlying problems of a fragmented and underfunded mental health system. Although acts of violence committed by people with mental illness are relatively rare, when they do occur, it is typically because they have not received treatment.   Co-occurring substance abuse disorders also increase the risk of violence. Finally, Honberg debunked the notion that privacy laws made it impossible for campus officials to share information about the Virginia Tech shooter with his family. The HIPPA privacy law sets a flexible standard which, under most circumstances, allows providers discretion to discuss diagnosis and care with families who care for adult family members. View a copy of Honberg’s presentation. 

"An Unlikely Union": Seminole County, Florida’s Collaborative Approach to CIT

Organizers of the Seminole County CIT program, including Shannon Seiple from the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, along with Dr. Valerie Westhead and Charlotte Guiliani, from the Seminole County Mental Health Center, discussed their collaborative implementation of CIT.   Seminole County employs two strategies to intervene before a crisis occurs or can escalate.  First, they train as many officials as possible in CIT, including police officers, probation officers, dispatchers, code enforcement officers, child protective services, and corrections officers. This allows for intervention on many fronts, pre- and post-booking.  Another effective strategy has been utilizing Florida’s civil commitment law, the Baker Act, which allows a 72 hour hold for evaluation in non-emergency situations. Officers frequently use the 72 hold to get someone into treatment quickly and help create stability; repeated holds (as a result of non-compliance or repeated police encounters) may be grounds for outpatient commitment. To learn more about Seminole County’s efforts, email Shannon Seiple at

2. Justice Department Announces 2007 Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grants

The U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) recently announced that 27 state and local jurisdictions have been awarded 2007 Justice and Mental Health Collaboration grants.  These grants, which are authorized through the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act, are intended to foster collaboration between criminal justice and mental health systems on jail diversion, community reentry, correctional mental health and substance abuse treatment, and cross-training.  Grants were awarded in three separate categories: “planning”, “implementation”, and “combined planning and implementation”. The BJA received applications from 220 jurisdictions.  Unfortunately, fewer than 15% of these applications were awarded grants due to funding limitations.

The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grant program received $5 million dollars in funding from Congress in FYs 2006 and 2007.  Although appropriations for FY 2008 have not been finalized, both the House and Senate have recommended $10 million in funding for this program in FY 2008.  While the federal funding climate remains tight, the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Grant program enjoys strong bipartisan support in Congress. Thus, we are hopeful that increased funding can be attained in the future.  Periodic information and updates about this and other relevant federal programs and resources are provided to subscribers to NAMI’s electronic forensic list-serve.  If you are currently not a subscriber but would like to be, please send an email to

3. NAMI Sacramento Tackles Suicide Epidemic in Law Enforcement

Police officers are at more risk from their own guns than those of others.  On the average, 150 officers die in the line of duty annually; 450 commit suicide.  This rate skyrockets when officers retire, particularly on stress related injuries.  NAMI in Sacramento, California has developed and is trying to promote and broaden a program in which retired officers, particularly those suffering from PTSD, address police academy cadets on maintaining good mental health through their careers. In the Sacramento program, a once suicidal highway patrol sergeant talks of his experiences at the gut level and shares a few basic—but crucial—steps on how to avoid the “soul wounding” and emotional erosion that happens in the average policeman’s career.  For information on beginning this valuable program in your area, contact or Andy O’Hara at

4. Collingswood, New Jersey Starts State’s First CIT Program:

The Courier-Post (South Jersey) reports that the Collingswood Police Department, in collaboration with Steininger Behavioral Care Services, the local NAMI affiliate, and the local Mental Health America affiliate, has started New Jersey’s first CIT program.   The team will serve Collingswood and neighboring Woodlynne. The Collingswood CIT program was initiated after the tragic killing of a man who suffered from serious mental illness by another inmate at the Camden County Jail. To read the article in the Courier-Post, click here.

5. We Need Your Help!

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? Please submit ideas and stories for future editions of CIT in Action to Laura Usher at

6. Useful Links

The University of Memphis CIT Center

The Criminal Justice/Mental Health Information Network

Memphis Police Department


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