Partners of the York County criminal justice system, the mental health system, consumers and family members recently formed a committee to implement a Crisis Intervention Team using the ‘Memphis Model’ as a program guideline. A CIT is a community partnership between criminal justice agencies working with mental health professionals to create a team of trained law enforcement professionals who are readily available to intercept those individuals encountered at street level who are in crisis. The purpose of the program is to divert people with mental illness in crisis to more appropriate resources. The philosophy is to provide a more humane and calm approach in the dealing with those with mental health issues as well as integrating the police with the community for the common goals of safety, understanding, and service to those with mental illness and their families.
As a result of the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill and the resulting increase in involvement of those with mental illness in the criminal justice system, in 1988, the Memphis Police Department partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness and local universities to organize, train and implement a specialized unit of trained police officers. This unit of police officers would respond to mental health consumers in crisis in order to divert them from further involvement in the criminal justice system. The Memphis CIT has become a nationally recognized model that effectively, humanely and safely addresses those in mental health crisis on the street.
How does it work?
Volunteer Police Officers receive 40 hours of specialized training to more effectively and safely deal with those in mental health crisis. Officers receive special designation as CIT officers and continue yearly training. 911 operators are trained to identify situations involving those in mental health crisis. The operator then contacts a CIT officer on duty to respond to the crisis. The CIT officer is the lead officer when responding to a scene. Officers work with the community to deescalate and safely divert these individuals from the criminal justice system.
CIT in York County
CIT training was initiated in York County in September 2010, with seventeen officers being trained. Since then, over 100 individuals have been trained. Among them are officers from14 different police departments, the York County Sheriff’s Department, York County Prison, York and Memorial Hospital Security Department as well as the Pennsylvania State Police Chaplain.
The current coordinators of the program are Dr. Kathleen Jansen, WellSpan Behavioral health; Chief Bryan Rizzo, Northeastern Regional Police Department; Katherine Gruver, Adult Probation/Parole Supervisor, York County Probation Services, and Susan Hein, Executive Director, NAMI York County.
NAMI plays an important role in the training by providing the consumer and family prospective. Trainees visit the NAMI office and have a round table discussion with consumers. Two consumers present the In Our Own Voice program. Two family members speak about their own unique experiences. A presentation about stigma is also part of the training, as well as a segment on hearing voices.