Moore Plans Crisis Intervention Teams
Law-enforcement officers in Moore County typically make 375 arrests per month.
A substantial number of the people arrested display symptoms of severe and persistent mental illness. These people and the public at large would be better served if they were placed in an environment where they could get the treatment they need, instead of in jail or prison.
The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program, which was developed in Memphis Tenn., is a pre-booking jail diversion program. CIT is worldwide and designed to provide law enforcement officers with the training required to respond to people experiencing a psychiatric crisis.
The CIT officer will defuse rather than escalate these crisis situations. The result is a de-escalation of the conflict and, if necessary, the person in crisis is placed in a location where treatment is available instead of jail.
In addition to recognizing and dealing with symptoms of mental illness, the program gives officers an alternative to immediate jailing. A person identified as being in a mental illness crisis who has committed minor misdemeanors such as trespassing or communicating threats is not necessarily arrested.
The CIT trained officer makes an assessment of the situation, including the seriousness of the infraction and the danger of the person to himself or others.
The officer then makes the appropriate decision on how best to handle the individual. The officer would divert the individual from jail incarceration and help identify someone who is in need of professional assessment and treatment.
The program does not excuse all violations of the law, and is designed to provide for the safety and well-being of officers, the people in crisis, their families and the general public in these situations.
The program teaches officers techniques to de-escalate potentially dangerous and unpredictable encounters. It recognizes that jail often is not always the appropriate solution, and that the vast majority of violations by people with mental illness do not involve violence.
A partnership has been created in Moore County to develop Crisis Intervention Teams based on the Memphis model. It includes the Sandhills Center for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Moore County (NAMI-MC), the Moore County Sheriff's office, First Health-Moore Regional Hospital and Sandhills Community College.
This partnership believes they can improve the safety and well-being of law enforcement officers, the people in crisis, their families and the general public in these crisis situations.
The team is currently developing a pilot course to train law enforcement officers to recognize the symptoms of mental illness and to respond in ways that will benefit everyone involved.
Officers who complete the 40-hour CIT course will be recognized as certified CIT officers who will respond to crisis situations.
Once the pilot course is completed, all law-enforcement agencies in Moore County will be invited to participate in the program.
Following the successful implementation of CIT in Moore County, training for "Crisis Intervention Teams" will be made available to the other seven counties served by Sandhills Center for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services. These include Anson, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Randolph and Richmond counties.
There are significant benefits to the community and the criminal justice system in an effective CIT program that follows the well-known national Memphis model for the creation of "Crisis Intervention Teams."
In addition to creating a safer environment for all those involved in a crisis situation, there are financial savings for law-enforcement agencies and more efficient use of their personnel and jail facilities.
A primary focus is to reduce the number of people with mental illness being placed in jails and to increase the number getting treatment.
Benefits that support the success of established CIT programs include the following:
- Crisis response is immediate
- Arrests and use of force has decreased
- Underserved consumers are identified by officers and provided with care
- Patient violence and use of restraints in the ER have decreased
- Officers are better trained and educated in verbal de-escalation techniques
- Officers' injuries during crisis events have declined
- Officer recognition and appreciation by the community has increased
- Less "victimless" crime arrests
- Decrease in liability for health care issues in the jail
- Cost savings
Anyone needing more information can contact Mark Marquez at the Sandhills Center at 673-9111 or e-mail at email@example.com, NAMI-MC at 295-1053.
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