Crisis Intervention Teams and your mental health

Crisis Intervention Teams and your mental health

You may or may not be aware of a police function called a “Crisis Intervention Team” (CIT). There is a heavy ongoing push country-wide to train police officers to “handle” difficult situations involving “suspected mental illness.”

For example, someone calls 911 to report a domestic squabble. The police arrive. Tempers flair. Someone is going to be taken to a mental health facility for a “96-hour evaluation,” also called Involuntary Commitment or Civil Commitment.

Let us use the Saint Louis County Police CIT as an example, whose mission is “to deliver positive law enforcement crisis intervention service to people with mental illness in the St. Louis area.”

The CIT-trained officers are used primarily as a referral mechanism to local mental health hospitals and agencies. If they cannot defuse a potentially dangerous situation, they will forcibly transport the offending person to a local hospital emergency room and transfer the person into the mental health system, authorized by Missouri Statute 632.305 (“Detention for evaluation and treatment”.)

The CIT engages local hospitals, agencies and organizations in a cooperative effort (“community partnership”) to streamline this process. One of the primary goals of a CIT is to divert offenders from jail to the mental health system, reducing the burden on the criminal justice system.

In the St. Louis area, there are 20 cooperating mental health agencies, 9 cooperating hospital systems, and 58 local law enforcement agencies with CIT-trained personnel. There are 10 counties throughout Missouri with CIT programs.

In 1988, the Memphis Police Department joined in partnership with the Memphis Chapter of the Alliance for the Mentally Ill, mental health providers, and two local universities (the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee) in organizing, training, and implementing a specialized unit for handling mental crisis events. This became the model Crisis Intervention Team subsequently exported to police departments across the country.

To be sure, no one disputes the need for police training, the safe and effective handling of potentially dangerous situations, and the temporary care for persons in crisis mode. One does, however, question the efficacy of mental health “treatment” in the current model of the psychiatric mental health system, where “treatment” generally means one or more abusive practices such as involuntary commitment, harmful and addictive psychotropic drugs, patient restraints, electroshock, and psycho-surgery.

Your mental health, and the mental health of your family, friends and associates, can be questioned by CIT-trained police. If this makes you uncomfortable, execute a Living Will (Letter of Protection from Psychiatric Incarceration and/or Treatment) and then express your opinion to your local, state and federal officials, and email the St. Louis Area Crisis Intervention Team Coordinating Council.