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Posted: Jul 23, 2008  07:59

Group Touts Law Enforcement Training for Crisis Intervention Team


A second community luncheon sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Far North Chapter was held July 16, with 120 people in attendance.

Guest speaker Lt. Michael Woody, Ret., spoke and showed a video on the NAMI supported Crisis Intervention Team program. The audience at Cedar Hills Church in Sandpoint included mental health workers, law enforcement, hospital personnel, government, and NAMI members from the five North Counties included in Region I. A coalition to implement the CIT program is being formed.

As NAMI President Ann Wimberley, MD introduced Woody, she summarized particular issues facing Bonner and Boundary County.

"We have no full-time practicing psychiatrist, no in-patient mental health beds, no Assertive Community Treatment Team, no mental health professional crisis response team, no Mental Health Court and have a serious lack of supportive housing for people with mental illness, both transitionally as they re-enter the community from hospitals and corrections and long term," she said. "This situation places law enforcement as the first responders for people with mental illness in crisis."

Woody retired, who from the Akron Police Dept. in 2002 with 25 years of service, is credited with bringing the CIT program to Ohio and is President of CIT International. He said he has never seen a group of people so poorly treated as people with mental illness and their families.

The CIT program is a coalition of members of law enforcement, mental health providers, people with mental illness (consumers) and families determined to improve crisis response. The coalition provides law enforcement with referrals to appropriate mental health services after de-escalating a crisis.

Central to the coalition is training for law enforcement. The program involves 40 hours of training for officers which builds knowledge of mental illnesses, non-crisis field work with families and consumers and role-play training. A trained officer is a better officer on the street, resulting in safer conditions for both the public and the officers.

The goal is to diffuse rather than escalate difficult situations. Woody added that people with mental illness have special needs which require special care and special services. Nationwide, 10 percent of all law enforcement calls are mental illness related. States that have implemented CIT report fewer calls and better results, perhaps because the problems are diffused earlier.

NAMI Far North has worked to bring CIT to North Idaho for a year. Law enforcement personnel from Bonner and Boundary County, who attended, are supportive of the training. At the luncheon 50 people signed up to join the coalition which will begin meeting in about two weeks, with the first training to begin in February.

For further information please contact or call 208-597-2047.


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