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“The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is much more than a training.  CIT has resulted in a partnership between law enforcement and behavioral health staff members. 

More importantly, CIT has facilitated both formal and informal communication between law enforcement and consumers of behavioral health.  These interactions have resulted in a higher level of empathy from law enforcement officers and a greater degree of trust from consumers.”
- Jed Burton, Clinical Director, Weber Human Services 

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, providing treatment and crisis services, and reaching out to people who may need ongoing support to prevent crisis from occurring in the first place.

Having a best practice CIT program means that there is a fully integrated crisis response system in place and that mental health professionals take the lead in crisis response and are the initial access point to services whenever possible. This increases connections to mental health services and helps to divert individuals in crisis from the criminal justice system. To assist with safety, law enforcement is still part of the crisis response as needed. But over the long term, this approach leads to fewer encounters between officers and individuals with mental illness—improving the safety for all involved.

Questions and Answers

How do mental health professionals partner with Law Enforcement?

With best practice CIT, mental health and law enforcement have established relationships and work in partnership to effectively respond to mental health crises. When appropriate, mental health professionals will take the lead in response with law enforcement back-up. In cases where safety is a concern, law enforcement will take the lead with mental health professionals available to offer expertise and support in the response and to connect the person in crisis with mental health services.

How does CIT reduce trauma?

Having mental health professionals use their skills to take the lead during crisis response helps to de-escalate the situation and reduce the trauma experienced by individuals in crisis. Reducing the trauma of an already traumatic situation leads to better immediate as well as long-term outcomes for everyone involved.

Why not have a co-responder model?

Some law enforcement agencies hire social workers to co-respond to mental health calls. While having mental health professionals as part of the response is critical, having social workers as employees of law enforcement can be a concern to some. First, mental health and law enforcement have two separate and distinct missions.

Combining these missions can create confusion for the person in a mental health crisis when creating trust is a critical component of an effective response. Some individuals in crisis will trust a mental health professional from a local provider but not as part of law enforcement. In addition, there are mental health workforce shortages, so law enforcement would be pulling resources away from mental health providers. Finally, many law enforcement agencies do not want to expand their missions to include mental health, and some social workers do not want to work in a law enforcement model.

Best practice CIT allows for mental health professionals and law enforcement to “co-respond” while maintaining each one’s unique role and clear boundaries. This builds trust with the person in crisis and allows for each partner to do their jobs effectively.

What type of mental health professional should be a part of CIT?

Those mental health professionals participating in the CIT program and crisis response should be individuals who want to do crisis work and are comfortable in this role doing outreach in the community. Ideally, mental health professionals doing this work have clinical experience and specific crisis work experience. Having a high-level clinician who can be in their role ideally for an extended period of time, prevents turnover and helps to build established relationships of trust with law enforcement and people in the community.

How can I help get best practice CIT in my community?

Mental health providers can be the champions to get best practice CIT in their communities. Having an appropriate response to mental health calls benefits everyone involved: the person in crisis, their family, mental health professionals, law enforcement officers, and whole communities. Law enforcement agencies generally are looking for assistance in responding to mental health crisis calls. Mental health providers can be the convener of the initial meetings to establish a best practice CIT program. Creating partnerships and building relationships to build trust is what CIT is about — taking that first step in reaching out to law enforcement partners can be a critical step in moving CIT forward.

Does this Program exist in my area?

Check out the Advisory Council and Coordinators section of our website for more information regarding the areas around the state and coordinators that use the best practice model.  

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

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