Deborah Fitzgerald, LPC, Ozark Center Director of Crisis Services
CIT is a police and mental health collaborative program that focuses on interactions between law enforcement and those living with a mental illness.
“Data suggests that around 10% of all police contacts with the public involve persons with serious mental illnesses,” said Debbie Fitzgerald, Ozark Center Director of Crisis Services and Southwest Missouri CIT Council Co-Chair.
For police, mental health calls can be time-consuming and divert officers from other crime-fighting activities. That’s where our local crisis intervention team (CIT) comes in.
CIT is a police and mental health collaborative program that focuses on interactions between law enforcement and those living with a mental illness. CIT trains officers to recognize mental illness and substance use, and teaches techniques to de-escalate a crisis, reducing the need for arrest and incarceration. CIT also involves changes in police department procedures, as well as collaboration with mental health providers and other community stakeholders.
“Officers with CIT training respond more compassionately – there’s less stigma for them when they encounter citizens with mental illness in the community,” said Fitzgerald.
In CIT, officers receive 40 hours of training provided by mental health clinicians (like those at Ozark Center), police trainers and consumer and family advocates. This training includes information about the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, mental health treatment, co-occurring disorders, legal issues and de-escalation techniques. CIT curriculums may also include content about developmental disabilities, older adult issues, trauma and excited delirium.
During the training, officers visit agencies in the community and interact with panels of providers, as well as with family members of and individuals with mental illnesses. They also receive training on resiliency, burn-out and stress reduction for themselves.
“Officers have a very hard job, and the vicarious trauma they experience puts them at an increased risk for suicide,” Fitzgerald said. “CIT training increases safety for everyone – both for those with mental health issues as well as for the responding officers.”
After receiving CIT training, officers are more aware of providers and services for mental health and drug and alcohol treatment. “They share in a collaborative partnership,” Fitzgerald said, “and they know how to access services and treatment. They use force less and are able to reduce the amount of time spent on mental health/substance use calls.”
Ozark Center, Joplin Police Department and Jasper County Sheriff department are all members of the Missouri State CIT Council, as well as the Southwest Missouri CIT Council. For more information about mental health training through Ozark Center, visit ozarkcenter.com/CrisisTraining