Crisis Intervention Team Academy Returns to Missoula
The weeklong Crisis Intervention Team Academy took place last week in Missoula. The CIT Academy is held once a year and is a collaborative effort staffed by multi-agency CIT Coordinators from the Missoula Police Department, the Missoula Fire Department, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, the Western Montana Mental Health Center, the Missoula County Detention Facility, Partnership Health Center and Providence St. Patrick Hospital.
According to Program Manager Theresa Williams, CIT started in Memphis, Tennessee in the late 80s after an African American male with a mental illness was shot and killed by law enforcement.
“It stirred up a lot of controversy and concern in the community,” Williams said. “The law enforcement, mental health community, and family members of people with mental illness all came together and said we can do a lot better. We need to treat people with mental illness with care and concern. We really need to do our best to get these folks to the help that they need and be very cautious about use of force.”
Williams said the Memphis model academy was brought to Missoula in 2015. She said the goal is to train law enforcement officers, detention staff, firefighters and other emergency responders in engaging, assessing and assisting individuals in crisis with mental health and or co-occurring substance use disorders.
“The CIT academy is actually geared toward law enforcement and then we pair that with community resources and mental health providers to really ensure we have this team aspect,” Williams said. “A lot of times people think CIT is crisis intervention training, but it is crisis intervention team training. We are all working together to help that person in crisis.”
Williams said the CIT academy students receive a special pin after they graduate that could prove to be helpful down the road.
“Everyone who graduates receives a pin that says CIT Montana,” Williams said. “If you run into law enforcement and they have a pin on, then you know that is a CIT trained officer and they really understand how to deescalate someone in a mental health crisis.”
Williams said they really want to use law enforcement strategically.
“When someone is in a behavioral health crisis and when there is an element of a weapon at play or safety is compromised, then it is really important that law enforcement is there versus just sending in the mental health mobile support team for example,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, there are situations where there isn’t a good outcome, but we really want to ensure we are training officers and the community team to do the best they can to help those folks in crisis.”