as crisis intervention teams — nationwide. Tailored by each
community to fit local needs, these teams unite the efforts of
police officers, mental health educators and community advocates
to resolve potentially violent situations in more positive ways. The
concept has become so popular that in July, Sens. Kelly Ayotte
(R-N.H.) and Mark Begich (D-Alaska) sponsored a bill that would
offer $20 million in grants so that public safety professionals
nationwide could take an eight-hour, evidence-based course with
goals similar to those of crisis intervention teams.
“Our goal is to take individuals who don’t really need to be
in jail or even the court system, and get them into a treatment
source,” says Memphis psychologist Randy Dupont, PhD, the
mental health lead for the original crisis intervention team
program in Memphis, where the training has increased officers’
confidence in their skills and knowledge about people with
serious mental illnesses.
Research also shows that crisis intervention team training
is effective. Two 2013 studies reported in Psychiatric Services by
Michael T. Compton, MD, and colleagues found that Georgia
police officers trained to work on crisis intervention teams were
significantly more likely than untrained officers to gain mental
health-related knowledge, attitudes and skills, to use verbal
engagement or negotiation as their highest level of force and to
refer people to mental health services rather than jail.
Likewise, a 2010 paper in Administration and Policy in
Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research by Amy
C. Watson, PhD, and colleagues found higher referral rates
among Chicago police who took the training. Overall, police
are responding to scenes more quickly and making fewer arrests
and re-arrests, and fewer people are being hurt.
Working together: Police and psychologists at a training session in
Meridian, Mississippi. The police training is one of several efforts to
emerge from the push to create crisis intervention teams as a way to
help resolve potentially violent situations in positive ways.