CRIME REDUCTION THROUGH CRISIS INTERVENTION TRAINING

Nearly one in six young Americans will cope with mental illness in their lifetime, but due to the broad nature of the illnesses, many go undiagnosed or untreated. Today, approximately 66 percent of young people with mental health issues are not seeking or receiving treatment. Addressing this problem is one way we can reduce the growing number of incidents of violence, such as school shootings, and prevent them from happening here. The Broward Sheriff’s Office practices proactive policing and is increasing the number of deputies with Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. As sheriff, my goal is continuously to expand BSO’s CIT training to provide deputies with the tools they need to assist those struggling with mental health concerns better.

CIT training is based on the nationally recognized “Memphis Model” of crisis intervention which was established to develop a more intelligent, more effective and safer approach to mental health crises. It is community based and is offered in partnership with organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Broward Regional Health Planning Council, the Broward Behavioral Health Coalition and others. These partnerships connect law enforcement and the community together for common goals of safety, understanding and service for the mentally ill and their families.

Since its inception in 2002, approximately 1,000 deputies and officers from various agencies have gone through CIT training. All of our emergency communication 9-1-1 operators also receive a specialized CIT course to assess emergency calls better. BSO currently has more than 280 active CIT deputies, a significant increase since January 2013. I remain committed to seeing this number increase each year.

Thanks to cooperation between our community partners, the number of CIT courses available to all Broward County law enforcement agencies has increased significantly this year. BSO is on track to reach my goal of certifying an additional 150 CIT deputies by the end of 2014, which will double the number of CIT BSO deputies available to respond to crisis calls.

The CIT course includes 40 hours of intensive training in behavioral health issues (mental illness and substance abuse), as well as treatments and psychotropic medications. Topics include sessions on the homeless, the elderly, veterans and those with developmental disabilities. Deputies also visit hospitals and crisis units, rehabilitation and counseling centers and homeless shelters to understand the many aspects of mental challenges. BSO continues to partner with many non-profit mental health centers so that our deputies learn best practices. I also require all our school resource deputies to be CIT trained. This helps them to identify children that could be at risk for harming themselves or others and intervene before matters escalate.

The training provides law enforcement with de-escalation techniques and solutions specific to assessing the underlying medical or emotional issues responsible for a person’s state of mind. These strategies allow law enforcement to recognize the difference between behavior that is criminal and behavior that is due to a person’s decreased capacity to cope with the ordinary demands of life.

In the past, law enforcement’s response to incidents involving a mental crisis was to apprehend the person who was acting out, being disorderly or threatening to cause harm. CIT training provides a non-violent solution that involves assisting, not arresting, the person with mental health problems. My experience has shown that arresting a person with mental health issues does not address the problem; instead, it adds to the problems the individual is already facing. Mental illness isn’t a crime, and incarceration shouldn’t be the solution.

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