DEPTFORD, N.J. — The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT), a mental health crisis response program, recently completed its first training session in Gloucester County at Rowan College of South Jersey – Gloucester County.
The program, a local initiative designed to improve the way law enforcement and community mental health providers respond as a team to people experiencing a mental health crisis, is built on a strong partnership between law enforcement and mental health providers and is designed to educate about the unique signs and symptoms of not only mental illness, but also developmental disabilities, co-occurring mental illness, and substance use disorder.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, CIT has resulted in an 80% reduction of officer injuries during mental health crisis calls in some cities. Also CIT has reduced arrests of people with mental illness while simultaneously increasing the likelihood that individuals will receive mental health services.
Further, the program can produce cost savings. For example, in some cities an inmate with mental illness in jail costs $31,000 a year, while community-based mental health treatment costs only $10,000 a year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health.
The crisis team works in over 2,700 communities nationwide, creating connections among law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency services and individuals with mental illness and their families. The program identifies mental health resources for those in crisis and ensures officer and community safety.
Freeholder Jim Jefferson, Liaison to the Department of Health and Human Services, said the training can help police officers who find themselves in situations with people suffering from mental health issues.
“It is important for our local officers to understand and obtain the skills necessary in dealing with individuals who may be showing signs of mental illness or other mental disorders and how they can de-escalate a situation or assist an individual before mental health providers arrive on scene,” Jefferson said.
The class provided participants with knowledge on de-escalation skills to keep the situation calm until mental health professionals arrive.
“By providing our officers with these skills, we are actively reducing the risk of a situation escalating while also educating officers on the signs and symptoms of mental health and mental disorders. The more we teach about mental health disorders and handling those who suffer from it, the more we promote a safe and understanding community,” Jefferson added.