Yulee, Fla. – Nearly one in six young Americans will cope with mental illness in their lifetime, but due to the broad nature of the illnesses, many go undiagnosed or untreated. Addressing this problem is one way we can reduce the growing number of incidents of violence, such as school shootings, and prevent them from happening here. The Nassau County Sheriff’s Office practices proactive policing and is increasing the number of deputies with Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. “As sheriff, my goal is continuously to expand NCSO’s CIT training to provide deputies with the tools they need to assist those struggling with mental health concerns better,” Sheriff Bill Leeper said.
CIT training is based on the nationally recognized “Memphis Model” of crisis intervention which was established to develop a more intelligent, more effective and safer approach to mental health crises. It is community based and is offered in partnership with organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and others. These partnerships connect law enforcement and the community together for common goals of safety, understanding and service for the mentally ill and their families.
“Law enforcement officers face a myriad of problems and issues on a daily basis,” said Leeper. “It is important that they are properly trained in order to resolve any situation. Unfortunately, many of these issues relate to individuals with some type of mental illness. They can range from depression to schizophrenia. This training will allow us to better understand the complexity of a person’s mental health. With a greater understanding, we are equipped to be more effective.”
The training provides law enforcement with de-escalation techniques and solutions specific to assessing the underlying medical or emotional issues responsible for a person’s state of mind. These strategies allow law enforcement to recognize the difference between behavior that is criminal and behavior that is due to a person’s decreased capacity to cope with the ordinary demands of life.
In the past, law enforcement’s response to incidents involving a mental crisis was to apprehend the person who was acting out, being disorderly or threatening to cause harm. CIT training provides a non-violent solution that involves assisting the person with mental health problems. “My experience has shown that arresting a person with mental health issues alone does not address the problem; instead, it adds to the problems the individual is already facing. Mental illness isn’t a crime, and incarceration shouldn’t be the solution. We have to work together to make sure these individuals get the help they need,” Leeper said.