Greetings from the NJ CIT Center of Excellence!
The NJ CIT Center of Excellence website is designed to provide a continuous source of information and resources for law enforcement officers, mental health providers and other community stakeholders to assist and support you in developing and expanding the CIT program in your county. As more counties are initiating the CIT model, it is our intention to cultivate a statewide CIT NJ community. We need your help and ask that you share your CIT experiences with this website so that we can showcase CIT success stories as well as post your recommendations and/or resources for specific challenges.
What Is CIT?
The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is a nationally acclaimed best practice jail diversion model originally developed by the Memphis Tennessee Police Department. New Jersey’s CIT program is a county based collaboration of professionals committed to improving their county’s law enforcement system and the mental health system’s response to persons experiencing a psychiatric crisis who come into contact with law enforcement first responders.
Why is CIT Necessary?
Across the United States and throughout New Jersey, there are more individuals with serious mental illnesses incarcerated in jails and prisons than are in psychiatric beds. There is little coordination or collaboration between the law enforcement system and the mental health system to address the myriad of challenges this population presents to the community.
- The Crisis Intervention Team model is based upon building a collaboration and strong communication network between the community’s police department and mental health system. Once established, the collaboration develops a strategy that increases the communication and supports between police and mental health systems and consequently diverts individuals from the justice system to mental health services.
- When a public safety situation occurs involving a person in psychiatric crisis, law enforcement officers will be the first responders. CIT training provides participants with knowledge and de-escalation skills which may decrease the necessity to use force in certain situations, thus protecting both the officers involved and the person in crisis.
What is CIT training?
The CIT course is a 40 hour five day training for law enforcement officers and psychiatric screening and mobile response professionals. The curriculum is designed, coordinated and delivered by each county’s CIT Leadership workgroup. It is comprised of classroom instruction, community site visits and practical exercises delivered by local mental health professionals, CIT law enforcement instructors and other subject matter experts.
Why 40 hours?
Knowledge: The CIT certification curriculum is a comprehensive overview of the wide range of issues that influence the outcome of a law enforcement officer’s response to the agitated or disruptive behavior of an individual experiencing a psychiatric crisis.
Skills: The CIT certification course provides participants with communication skills that can de-escalate a potentially violent situation. A segment of the training includes mandatory role playing where each student must respond to a scenario. Their response is then critiqued by their instructors and peers.
Awareness: The CIT certification curriculum includes a site day during which students visit the local corrections facility, community mental health services and social service programs in order to increase the participant’s understanding of the community resources and how to access them.
Building personal networks: The 40 hour CIT class is comprised of no more than 30 students representing local mental health providers and law enforcement officers. The course is designed to be interactive in order to increase the individual participants’ personal networks. (Sometimes it’s who you know that gets the quickest results!)
What are the benefits of CIT?
Reduction in stigma towards those who have a mental illness
During 2014-15 the Scattergood Foundation conducted an evaluation of 350 officers who completed the NJ CIT Center of Excellence 40 hour certification course in order to assess the impact of this training in reducing stigmatized beliefs and attitudes about individuals living with mental illness.
To measure the effect of the CIT training on stigma, officers were given the Attribution Questionnaire-‐9 (AQ-‐9) before the program started and immediately after the education component of the training was completed. Analyses of the differences between the pretest and posttest mean scores indicated that the officers’ attitudes towards those with mental illness improved at statistically significant levels. This is a significant outcome as the officer’s personal belief system about those with a mental illness will influence their initial response to a crisis situation.
Reduction in injuries Studies indicate that injuries to officers, first responders, the general public, and individuals with a mental illness are reduced in communities where CIT is in place. CIT provides officers with knowledge and skills that result in safer interventions for officers, first responders, and consumers and families.
Reduction in time officers are off of the streets while responding to individual in psychiatric crisis The collaboration and coordination between the mental health system and the law enforcement system can address systemic problems and reduce the amount of time that officers need to spend responding to calls involving a psychiatric crisis. A more user friendly mental health system for police officers can result in a reduction in inappropriate incarcerations of those who have a serious mental illness.
Who should be trained in CIT?
TARGET AUDIENCE: First responders that include, but not limited to: law enforcement, EMT, Mental Health Providers and staff, and community outreach members.
What is the cost of CIT training?
There are no registration or training fees for municipal and state law enforcement officers and community mental health providers in the state of New Jersey. CIT is a program of the Mental Health Association in Southwestern New Jersey that is funded through a contract with the NJ Division of Mental Health and Addictions.
How can we initiate the Crisis Intervention Team in our county?
The NJ CIT Center of Excellence is funded by the NJ Division of Mental Health and Addictions making it possible to provide support and technical assistance to assist and support individual County Leadership Teams in the development and implementation of the Crisis Intervention Team program. For more information call 856-522-0639 ext. 105. The process for initiating a county based CIT program includes:
- County develops Steering Committee and identifies co-chairs to represent the law enforcement and community mental health systems. The Coordinator of the NJ CIT Center of Excellence serves in an advisory capacity to the individual county steering committees.
The County Steering committee should be relatively small and comprised of leaders from the following: Law Enforcement, Screening, Mental Health Administrator, Mental health & addictions providers, Criminal Justice & Corrections, National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health Association, County and state government
- NJ CIT Center of Excellence comes to the county and provides the Steering Committee and other local stakeholders with a comprehensive overview of CIT through a 4 hour CIT Orientation
- County Steering Committee determines if there is adequate support in community and if the mental health system has the capacity to respond to CIT diversion of clients from corrections. Steering Committee identifies municipality(ies) to send officers to 40 hour training.
- The CIT Center of Excellence will work in collaboration with the County Steering Committee in tailoring the curriculum to its specific needs. The initial 40 hour training in each County will be presented by the CIT Center of Excellence faculty. The County Steering Committee will identify local trainers for each component of the agenda. The “trainees” will observe the segment of the curriculum that they will eventually teach and will then work with the presenter in preparing for future trainings.
- The County Steering Committee identifies key community stakeholders including law enforcement officers and mental health providers to participate in the 40 hour training. Each trainee completing 40 hour training receives NJ CIT Center of Excellence Certification.
What Is More Than Just Training?
Training is more than a “one-shot” deal. Several times a year, officers meet for debriefing meetings and in-service trainings to problem solve tactical issues, discuss different experiences and scenarios they have encountered, and participate in advanced training. This allows officers a chance to reinforce and sharpen their skills, address new problems, and build cohesiveness.
Why Does Our Community Need CIT?
Police are often the first to be called for a crisis situation involving persons with a mental illness. These crisis situations can and have involved officer and citizen injury or deaths in the State of New Jersey. CIT training significantly decreases injuries, death, and community dissent. In turn, persons with a mental illness are diverted to the mental health system and treatment rather than to jail or to return to the streets. Citizens become more confident in reporting crisis situations and police officers are better prepared to respond safely to those situations. Crisis intervention shifts from lose-lose to win-win.
What are Known Outcomes of CIT? *
- Increases officer/citizen safety
- Decreases police liability and litigation
- Extends officers’ skills
- Increases on-scene expertise
- Reduces the time officers spend at hospital emergency departments
- Increases officer/community confidence
- Increases professionalism
- Empowers officers to divert person(s) with a mental illness to treatment
- Increases cooperation between criminal justice and mental health systems
- Establishes responsibility and accountability
- Decreases arrest rates
- Reduces recidivism
* (See Steadman, Deane, Borum, & Morrisey, 1998; Steadman, Morrisey, Borum, & Deane, 1997)