Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) are programs that bring together local stakeholders, including law enforcement officers, emergency dispatchers, mental health treatment providers, consumers of mental health services, and others (such as hospitals, emergency medical care facilities, non-law enforcement first responders, and family advocates), in order to improve multi-systems’ response to persons experiencing behavioral health crises who come into contact with law enforcement and other first responders or corrections and jail personnel due to exhibiting symptoms or behaviors that are misinterpreted as criminal in nature, inappropriate, dangerous or violent. Additionally, law enforcement officers routinely interact with individuals with behavioral health disorders as a result of the statutory structure of Virginia’s civil commitment process. In many of these situations, it is necessary to help such persons access the mental health treatment they need rather than going with the alternative, incarceration.
CIT programs enhance community collaboration, develop effective infrastructure and provide outstanding training to improve criminal justice and mental health system response to individuals with mental health issues. The Chas Foundation has been meeting with local agencies in Norfolk, VA to assist in implementing the CIT program and the development of an assessment site to improve access to services.
The goals of the crisis intervention team programs shall be:
- Providing immediate response by specially trained law-enforcement officers;
- Reducing the amount of time officers spend out of service awaiting assessment and disposition;
- Affording persons with mental illness, substance abuse problems, or both, a sense of dignity in crisis situations;
- Reducing the likelihood of physical confrontation;
- Decreasing arrests and use of force;
- Identifying underserved populations with mental illness, substance abuse problems, or both, and linking them to appropriate care;
- Providing support and assistance for mental health treatment professionals, or both, and linking them to appropriate care;
- Decreasing the use of arrest and detention of persons experiencing mental health and/or substance abuse crises by providing better access to timely treatment;
- Providing a therapeutic location or protocol for officers to bring individuals in crisis for assessment that is not a law-enforcement or jail facility;
- Increasing public recognition and appreciation for the mental health needs of a community;
- Decreasing injuries to law-enforcement officers during crisis events;
- Reducing inappropriate arrests of individuals with mental illness in crisis situations;
- Decreasing the need for mental health treatment in jail.