Crisis Intervention Training Helps Police Understand Mental Illness

  • Posted: Friday, October 18, 2013 11:48 p.m.

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of columns written in observance of National Mental Illness Awareness Week, submitted by the local chapter of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

By LaShay Avery

Special to the Salisbury Post

In 2008, Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions (then Piedmont Behavioral Healthcare) began conducting Crisis Intervention Team Training (CIT). The training is designed to educate law enforcement and other first responders about mental health, intellectual/developmental disabilities and substance use/addiction conditions.

The efforts have paid off. Many entities have shared about the benefits of the training.

As a partner of National Alliance on Mental Illness, (NAMI) and Rowan Cabarrus Community College, (RCCC), Cardinal Innovations has been able to collaborate with a variety of invested parties.

Often there are biases against law enforcement as well as biases against the mentally ill and those who serve the mentally ill. The training dispels myths and addresses stereotypes and stigma on the side of both law enforcement and behavioral health. All parties are engaged — law enforcement, the managed care organization, behavioral health providers, those with disabilities, family members and community stakeholders at large.

CIT training teaches officers to recognize people with mental illness and to handle potentially volatile situations appropriately. De-escalation of a crisis is a key skill.

Family members, friends or anyone who call 911 because of a situation pertaining to a mentally ill person can ask specifically for CIT-trained officers to answer the call. These officers are trained to de-escalate situations that could otherwise end in injury or even death.

CIT is 40-hour training, which includes classroom instruction, consumer panels, psychosis simulations, community treatment center tours and role play. With close to 500 officers trained in the Piedmont area, Crisis Intervention Team training offers an opportunity not only to educate but to save lives. There will be a training held the week of Oct. 21.

There are 32 officers registered from the Piedmont catchment area of Rowan, Cabarrus, Davidson, Stanly and Union counties. To date, many officers from these counties have been trained in CIT with the support of the community sheriffs and police chiefs. The Piedmont communities should be very proud of their law enforcement.

LaShay Avery is the community partners manager and crisis intervention team coordinator for Cardinal Innovations Healthcare Solutions-Piedmont Community Operations Center.

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