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CIT: Giving Officers the Skills to Respond Safely and Effectively to a Mental Health Crisis

Mental illnesses affect one in four adults in a given year — and police have become the front line respondents to people with serious mental illnesses who are in crisis.  Responding to a mental health crisis without adequate training and understanding can lead to many issues for law enforcement.  Without adequate preparation and training to respond to a mental health crisis, incidents encountered may escalate rapidly into a dangerous situation. Officer injury, use of force, sending people to jail due to lack of better alternatives, hours spent in emergency rooms, and troubled community relations are all problems officers may face when responding to a mental health crisis.

UWPD is prepared to serve our community for those suffering from mental illness or experiencing a crisis. Our agency embraces a nationally recognized Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training model that originated in Memphis, Tennessee.  Our CIT program consists of law enforcement officers who have received specialized training on partnering with individuals in the community who have a mental illness.  The goals of CIT are to train law enforcement officers in the recognition of mental illness, to enhance their verbal crisis de-escalation skills, and to provide more streamlined access to community-based mental health services. CIT officers are available on each shift to provide an immediate response to calls involving a mental health crisis. CIT officers do much more than respond to those in crisis.

The “team” aspect of CIT involves law enforcement strategic partnerships with community stakeholders and is a collaborative approach.  CIT officers attend community meetings, participate in NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) and consumer-focused events, cultivate partnerships with area stakeholders, and build trust with consumers.  Community members can easily identify CIT officers by a standardized “CIT” pin worn on officers’ uniforms just above their nameplate.

Our specialized team of officers are prepared to provide services to individuals with mental illness and families or friends in times of crisis. Because officers are generally the front line respondents to work with a person in crisis, it’s imperative that the officer understand issues that the individual may be experiencing as a result of his or her mental illness.

We are committed to respond to our community needs, build and sustain partnerships, and make a positive difference for individuals in need.

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