MANSFIELD – When it comes to crises, either national or local, first responders put their training to use, risk their lives and work hard to keep their community safe.
Richland County is just one of hundreds in the nation who wish to equip their first responders with additional training when it comes to crises; more specifically, mental health crises. And over the past fifteen years of this training, the community has seen a significant difference in how this training prepares law enforcement for crises of this kind.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Richland County (NAMI RC) and the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board are proud to graduate the 24th class of “Crisis Intervention Team” (CIT) trained officers in Richland County. This 40-hour curriculum focuses on the need for advanced training and specialization with first responders.
This collaborative effort between law enforcement and the mental health community helps law enforcement officers handle incidents involving persons suffering with mental illness. This training focuses on the immediacy of the crisis response, emphasis on officer and consumer safety and referral for those in crisis to ensure proper mental health treatment instead of incarceration.
“We have seen a better interaction between law enforcement and people with lived experience of mental illness and crisis, said Joe Trolian, executive director of the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board. "Crises then can be resolved with as little harm to those individuals as possible."
Trolian noted CIT training also reduces officer injury, which has been seen since the training began in 2004.
"We have also seen better interaction between law enforcement and the community as people are not immediately on the defensive when they see a uniform," he said. "They can look for the CIT pin and that puts people at ease and makes a huge difference in how people are able to interact with law enforcement and how quickly de-escalation can occur."
The CIT curriculum was developed in the late 80’s, built upon the work of NAMI family advocates and a community task force composed of law enforcement, mental health and addiction professionals and consumer advocates. An intensive 40-hour training curriculum was developed which focuses on scenarios based on actual incidents.
Other parts of the training include individual diagnosis, medications, de-escalation, civil legal and court processes, and perspectives from individuals with mental illness and their family members.
Over 500 CIT trained officers have gone through this curriculum in Richland County and we want individuals living with mental illness and their families to know there are officers who understand this experience and are trained to get them the specific help they need. If you are ever in need of police in a time of a mental health crises, be sure to ask specifically for a CIT trained officer.
“We are grateful to all our first responders, law enforcement agencies, mental health agencies, Mansfield Playhouse, families and loved ones with mental illness that have come together to make this training a success in our community," said Mary Kay Pierce, executive director of NAMI Richland County. "It is much more than a training; it is a collaboration of people working together to help others."