A study by the Treatment Advocacy Center found that over 1 in 10 police encounters with the public involve someone with a severe mental health illness. When encountering someone with a mental illness, arresting them isn’t often the best solution for police officers, or the individual.
Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training is being offered to help provide law enforcement officials with additional resources and training on situations pertaining to mental health. The training is offered through the Alcohol, Drug Addiction & Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County, thanks in part to grant funding.
What the Training Looks Like
Due to the pandemic, CIT training has been conducted virtually throughout the first two quarters 2021. Beginning in July of this year, the training will resume its traditional face-to-face format in a classroom setting. The first 32 hours of training are conducted at the Metroparks Police Headquarters in Fairview Park, Ohio. The last day of the training will take place at Cuyahoga Community College’s Scenario Village, located on their Public Safety campus in Parma, Ohio.
CIT training is taught by a variety of subject matter experts in law enforcement, mental health, medical and social work. Active listening skills, behavior assessment and de-escalation are just some of the techniques taught as part of this 40-hour training. The ultimate goal is to increase the officer’s abilities at avoiding use-of-force when encountering those in a mental health crisis, by talking them through the situation and looking for alternative resolutions other than criminal charges.
At Scenario Village, officers rotate through physical environments such as emergency rooms, treatment centers, courtrooms and a residence, where they are able to utilize their newly acquired skills during simulated scenarios. The scenarios are facilitated by CIT coaches and are staged using professional role players from Traumatic Players of Cleveland.
“It Gives Us Valuable Resources…”
Orlando Hudson is a Lieutenant with Greater Cleveland Transit Police, who also serves as a CIT coach for the ADAMHS Board and instructor for Cuyahoga Community College. He was certified as a CIT officer in 2020 and says it offered tools that allowed him to better connect with people living with mental health issues.
“People that have autism, schizophrenia, or depression…they’re having a bad day," Hudson said. "When people are in crisis, they need effective communication. As Transit Police officers, we come in contact with a diverse range of people."
Many individuals have a dual-diagnosis, meaning they suffer from a mental illness and are dealing with addiction or substance abuse.
“CIT showed me how to understand what they’re experiencing and offer them solutions that get them help rather than a trip to jail,” Hudson said.
While Crisis Intervention Team training primarily focuses on helping the public, it can also help officers realize if they themselves need help.
“We are human,” Hudson said. “Sometimes as an officer you need to be able to reach out and ask for help for yourself. CIT training empowers you to do that.”
More Than Law Enforcement
Freddy Cuevas is a Transit Police Officer who also went through CIT and he says the resources have helped him offer assistance to the homeless and those suffering with addiction.
“I’ve leveraged these resources to help secure housing for homeless people and get others into treatment centers," he says. "It really is a powerful experience to be able to go above-and-beyond to help someone like that.”
CIT helps police officers become more than just enforcers of the law; they can help connect people to resources and get them out of bad situations. It also helps officers work with the family, friends, social services, and attorney of the individual to create a “treatment team” and offer the individual more support, encouragement, and customized care.
“The goal is to keep people out of the criminal justice system and refer them into the behavioral health system."
Train Every Officer
The goal of the ADAMHS Board is to have 25% of officers from every agency in Cuyahoga County receive CIT. Cleveland Heights, Beachwood, Cleveland Clinic, and numerous other agencies have already begun to send officers to CIT.
The goal set for Transit Police, however, is to have every single officer receive CIT – starting with patrol and eventually including the full command staff. Dispatchers, too, will have the opportunity to receive this training since they can receive phone calls from people with a mental health emergency. To date, 16 Transit Police officers have received this training and 8 are scheduled to attend each month until the entire force is certified.
GCRTA and Transit Police work hard each day to help fulfill our mission of connecting the community.