Crisis Intervention Team (CIT)
Christopher Koester and Michelle Horvath
Michelle Horvath, MA, LPC, NCC is a Community Mental Health Liaison at the Crider Health Center in Union, Missouri.
Chris Koester is a Police Officer with the St. Louis County Police Department, Special Operations and member of the St. Louis Area Crisis Intervention Team and Council.
CIT training, developed in Memphis TN, provides a model of specialized law enforcement expertise. Volunteer officers, based in the general patrol division, work in cooperation with the mental health system, consumers, and families. Trained CIT Police officers carry on the normal duties of law enforcement, but switch to a specialist role when a potential mental health-related crisis is identified.
CIT focuses on de-escalation strategies, and redirecting the individual from the criminal justice system to the mental health care system. In turn, the mental health care system assumes “custody” of the individual, and provides directed and non-restrictive accessibility to a full range of health care and social service options. 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.
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