The police, in every city across the nation, are extensively trained in a number of disciplines, many of which focus on physical intervention. But a large number of incidents in which the police are called upon to intervene involve mental health issues, and often, officers are ill-equipped to understand and handle such issues. This discrepancy can be addressed through the implementation of Crisis Intervention Training, a program for police officers that helps them act as mediators and provides greater support for making decisions about where to direct those in need of help, and whether to administer charges. At present, a scant number of police departments retain a small percentage of officers familiar with the program, but this trend is rapidly changing. With many police departments extolling the virtues of CIT, including recent accolades from the Memphis, TN and Fargo, ND organizations, America may soon experience the benefits of a police force that can make a meaningful difference in times of mental distress.
In many situations, police officers may escort those exhibiting symptoms of mental illness to jails or emergency rooms, both of which can fail to address the issue at hand, becoming little other than extra expenses on the state, and exacerbating the difficulties of clients. The administration of charges has also traditionally caused problems for police officers, as petty misdemeanors are unilaterally applied with little to no room for contextual interpretation. But the use of the CIT program, as well as the greater understanding of mental health among department superiors, is capable of creating better situations not only for the police, but for those who find themselves in need of assistance, as well. Though not a replacement for a trained and licensed psychotherapist, CIT trained officers may be a valuable gateway between crisis and long-term care.
© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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