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  • Writer's pictureDesert Bloom Counseling

The Transformative Power of Crisis Intervention Teams: A Shift from Policing to Mental Health Care

In the United States, we are witnessing a mental health crisis of unprecedented proportions. Simultaneously, there is a significant lack of crisis services, leading to law enforcement officers frequently becoming the first responders to mental health emergencies. This intersection of mental health and law enforcement has sparked a nationwide movement to rethink our approach to mental health crises.

One solution that has emerged is the development of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs. These programs, already implemented in over 27,000 communities across the country, aim to bridge the gap between law enforcement, mental health professionals, and those experiencing mental health crises.

The Role of Crisis Intervention Teams

CIT programs are designed to improve communication between law enforcement and mental health professionals, ensuring that individuals experiencing a mental health crisis receive appropriate care rather than punitive action. These programs provide intensive training to law enforcement officers, equipping them with the skills to de-escalate situations and refer individuals to the appropriate treatment services. The ultimate goal is to ensure the safety of all community members and provide a more compassionate, effective response to mental health crises.

The Benefits of Crisis Intervention Programs

The implementation of CIT programs offers numerous benefits:

1. Diversion from the Criminal Justice System: CIT programs aim to divert individuals with mental health issues away from the criminal justice system and into treatment programs, where they can receive appropriate care.

2. Enhanced Officer Safety: By providing law enforcement officers with the tools and resources to handle mental health crises effectively, CIT programs enhance officer safety and reduce the risk of violent encounters.

3. Focus on Crime Reduction: With mental health professionals stepping in to handle mental health crises, police officers can focus their efforts on crime reduction.

4. Cost Savings: Research indicates that incarceration is significantly more expensive than treatment programs. By diverting individuals into treatment rather than jail, CIT programs can save communities money.

How You Can Contribute

Whether you're a mental health professional, a law enforcement officer, or a family member of someone living with a mental health issue, you have a role to play in transforming how your community responds to mental health crises.

You can start by connecting with your local affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to learn about existing CIT programs in your area or how to advocate for the creation of one. Your voice and your actions can contribute to a broader shift towards a more compassionate, effective approach to mental health crises.

In conclusion, the implementation of CIT programs represents a significant step forward in our approach to mental health crises. By fostering collaboration between law enforcement and mental health professionals, these programs ensure that individuals in crisis receive the care they need, promoting community safety and well-being. As we continue to grapple with the mental health crisis in our country, the role of CIT programs will only become more critical.

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