Moore Graduates First Class for Crisis Intervention Teams
In 1988, the shooting of a mentally ill person by a police officer in Memphis, Tenn., led to the development of the country's first Crisis Intervention Team (CIT).
Since then, cities all over the country, with the help of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), have developed their own teams. Moore County has just graduated its first class of CIT professionals -- 15 in all -- on Friday, April 4, at Sandhills Community College.
Four different agencies -- the NAMI Moore County; Sandhills Center for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse; Outpatient Behavioral Services of FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital; and the Moore County Sheriff's Department -- worked together to develop and offer a curriculum based closely on Memphis' pioneer program.
Sgt. Robert Cardwell of the Moore County Sheriff's Department, who went through Wake County's CIT course, said the University of Memphis CIT program is considered the bible.
"We based our curriculum on Wake County, which based their program on Memphis," he said. "That's been in place since 1988, so we have, by extension, the gospel. The training committee sat down with those core elements and decided who would be best suited to teaching those elements."
CIT is an innovative program for jail diversion and improvement of police response for mentally ill people in crisis. The program brings together law-enforcement personnel and mental health professionals, consumers, and advocates. The goal is improving understanding of, and safety and service to, mentally ill individuals and their families.
The curriculum for the five-day course included overviews of different mental illnesses, medication and side effects, special concerns with adolescents and geriatric patients, substance abuse, the commitment process, legal issues and the mental health system; a tour of the Emergency Department and psychiatric unit; a consumer panel; and role play exercises.
"It was all very enlightening," said Southern Pines Police Captain Carol Wright, a graduate. "Our interaction with mental health consumers was the most touching, and seeing what happens behind the scenes in mental health system, it enlightened us a lot. It was a big learning experience. All of it helped us understand better what's going on."
Locally, NAMI Moore County has advocated for this program.
"It developed into a true partnership," said NAMI Moore County President Judith Krall. "We wanted this here, as it's being pushed all over the U.S. We put out the word last year, held our first meeting and the immediate response by the Sheriff's Department was, 'Yes, we'll do it.'"
The committee has been meeting to plan the curriculum only since fall 2007.
The graduating class came from the Moore County Sheriff's Department and police departments all over the county. Graduates were: Jerry Aponte, Andy Conway, Wesley Hart, Marty Key, Christopher Lineberry, Gergory Maness, Henry Marion, Bryan Monroe, and James Threadgill, all of the Moore County Sheriff's Department; Craig Armstrong and Anthony Torres of the Aberdeen Police Department; Rick Bickel of the Carthage Police Department, Melissa Goodwin and Carol Wright of the Southern Pines Police Department; and Murdock McLaurin, coordinator of Law Enforcement Training at Sandhills Community College.
Krall and Cardwell both have said that the committee would like to see all law-enforcement officers in Moore County have the opportunity to receive CIT training.
At the graduation ceremony, Sandhills Community College President John Dempsey welcomed the graduates and audience.
"We live in a complex world where problems have different dimensions and solutions," Dempsey said. "This CIT training creates the synergy to be able to do lots of different things. It's going to serve a vitally important function. The committee has done a tremendous thing and this ceremony is not an ending but just the beginning because we plan on training many more officers."
Michael Watson, CEO of Sandhills Center and also a committee member, considers this graduation a celebration of things to come.
"People with chronic, long-term mental illness encounter a different world at times, a community that doesn't offer them a lot of support, the stigma of mental illness, access to their medications that often cause side effects, and discrimination in the insurance world," he said. "They have problems and behaviors that bring them in contact with law enforcement. Everyone's commitment to CIT and their willingness to learn will give our community a more competent, safe and humane response to working with those with mental illness."
Contact Mary Griffin at email@example.com.
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