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Why are there different CIT programs statewide?

Up until 2015, CIT in Utah was a unified program statewide. After that time it was determined the best way for CIT to maintain its independence and ability to represent the needs of all communities — urban, suburban, rural and frontier — it needed to form its own independent non-profit entity. Some law enforcement departments decided to do their own program, even though their officers could not receive state certification from the Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health.

What are the advantages to CIT best practices being implemented statewide? 

It is important that CIT mean the same thing to the public across the state. When an individual calls a CIT officer to respond to a mental health crisis, they should have the confidence that the officers have received the best practice training. We also believe that officers should always have the best training and tools to help keep them safe.

What are the barriers keeping CIT best practices from being implemented statewide?

Some law enforcement agencies have chosen to do their own in-house programs or have chosen to not have any type of crisis intervention training at all. There are many reasons for not having a unified state CIT program, but funding is the greatest barrier. Taking officers “offline” and sending them to a 40-hour training can be a staffing and financial challenge. Having funding to support law enforcement agencies can make a real difference in having the right number of appropriately trained officers available statewide funding.

What are three things the media should know about CIT best practices? 

CIT is more than just training officers. When done correctly, it is about building effective crisis response systems that involve law enforcement, mental health professionals, and individuals with lived experience (peers and family members) and advocates.

CIT does not mean the same thing throughout the State of Utah. The benefits of a best practice CIT program should be available statewide.

Elected officials can serve as effective champions for best practice CIT and can help ensure CIT is properly funded. more than just training (developing crisis response).

Shouldn’t law enforcement be first on scene for every kind of crisis?

In a well-functioning crisis response system, the mental health system is primarily responsible for educating the public about the availability of mental health services, reaching out to people who may need ongoing support, and responding to crisis events.

Law enforcement should play a supportive role in situations where there is a safety or criminal concern, but generally should not be the lead agency simply because a mental health crisis has occurred.

This ideal is far from the reality for many communities, where crisis services are inadequate and police play a significant role in crisis response. Changing those systems is a slow and gradual process. Historically, law enforcement, who are often very task-oriented, have tried to address the issue on their own, or have been reluctant to relinquish primary crisis response responsibilities to an evolving system of care. Unfortunately, it’s simply impossible for law enforcement to create a safe and humane crisis response system on their own or to take on permanent responsibility for managing every crisis call for service. Instead, law enforcement must work with their partners, look for strengths in the community, and support mental health system partners in shouldering primary responsibility of crisis response services.

How does CIT benefit communities?

When a program follows best practice CIT, the response to mental health crises has better outcomes for the person in crisis, the family, the officers, and whole communities. Because mental health professionals are involved in the response, the focus is on de-escalation and the person in crisis is more likely to be diverted to the appropriate mental health services, whenever possible. In addition, having an effective crisis response system in place, provides a better use of resources and is more cost-effective.

What is the benefit of implementing the State-certified, best practice CIT model?

By following best practices, CIT programs can be assured that the right officers who have received the best training are engaged in crisis response. When law enforcement is called to respond to a mental health call, the officers should have the confidence that they have the best training and tools to help keep them and the community safe.

The CIT program ensures that a mental health professional will be a part of the crisis response and take the lead whenever possible. This approach allows mental health professionals to do their jobs, and allows law enforcement to focus on safety.

When an officer is trained from a State Certified CIT program, the certification transfers with the officer if they move to another department.

Should all officers be trained in CIT?

The purpose of CIT training is to prepare a select group of patrol officers to continue their patrol duties, now with a specialization in assisting people in crisis. Officers learn how to identify and most effectively respond to mental health crisis situations, divert individuals from the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems when appropriate, and help individuals access local mental health services.

Research has shown that officers who self-select for the role of CIT officer—and are treated as specialists with an important leadership role—perform significantly better than those who are mandated to participate in CIT training. This is called the volunteer-specialist model.

When officers complete CIT training, they return to regular patrol duties with an additional responsibility as a CIT officer who will be dispatched to crisis calls that arise during their patrol shift. While CIT training is highly specialized, CIT officers are not dispatched in a special unit, but as regular patrol officers. During a mental health crisis call, the CIT officer will typically assume responsibility for the scene, even if they are not the first responding officer or the most senior.

This model allows law enforcement agencies to have highly-trained, rapidly-responding officers for crisis situations but does not reduce patrol capacity.

What type of officers should self select?

When CIT officers respond to mental health crisis calls, they often spend significant time using de-escalation skills. These situations require patience, self-awareness, and compassion. The CIT model demands a high level of independence, self-motivation, and interest in working with this special population from officers to safely and effectively resolve mental health crisis situations.

Should new recruits be trained in CIT?

CIT training is advanced training—it requires officers who have patrol experience, and are able to integrate complex new skills into their current skillset for responding to calls for service. For that reason, CIT training is not appropriate for new recruits. Instead of the CIT specialty, mental health awareness and de-escalation training should be required for all officers and new recruits.

How many officers need to be CIT trained?

There is no specific percentage of officers a law enforcement agency should seek to train through their CIT program. An agency should recruit and train officers until there are enough CIT officers to provide coverage for all districts and all patrol shifts, 365 days a year. In large agencies, this may come out to 20 or 25 percent of officers. In very large urban agencies, the percent may be even higher. In very small agencies, almost all officers may need to be trained to provide adequate coverage.

However, training officers who do not have the specific interest, personal motivation, or skills to be CIT officers is not encouraged.

©CIT UTAH, 299 S. MAIN ST., STE 1300 Salt Lake City, Utah   84111  | | (801) 535-4653

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