Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT)
In 2017, the Arkansas Legislature passed Act 423 requiring Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement officers and created a pilot program consisting of four Crisis Stabilization Units throughout the state.
Crisis intervention and stabilization units represent a therapeutic psychiatric service provided for persons in acute behavioral health crisis. The mission of the crisis stabilization units is to provide alternatives to inpatient psychiatric hospitalization or emergency room visits for persons in a mental health crisis or who have encountered law enforcement due to their psychiatric condition. The established crisis stabilization units are located in the following counties:
- Pulaski County
- Sebastian County
- Washington County
- Craighead County
Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training equips law enforcement with the training needed to deescalate violent situations and recognize the difference between individuals who display criminal behavior and those who are suffering from a mental health crisis. The Arkansas Legislature Act 423 required CIT Training for law enforcement and set forth standards that required most agencies to have at least one CIT trained officer. The law also encouraged twenty percent of officers at agencies with more than ten officers to be trained in CIT. Specifically, CIT aids in bringing together mental health systems and law enforcement. Additionally, in 2018, ALETA added sixteen hours of CIT to all basic academies.
CIT training focuses on three main elements:
- The first is mental illness awareness and recognition. During training, officers become familiarized with many different mental illnesses and are taught how to recognize the signs and symptoms. Officers who are aware of and can recognize mental illnesses will be better prepared to handle subjects they encounter with mental illnesses. This knowledge will lessen the officer’s chances of having to use force during the incident, which inherently reduces officer and suspect injuries.
- De-escalation is the second element of CIT training. During the de-escalation portion of CIT, officers are taught to slow the situation down and to use empathetic understanding to diffuse situations. Officers are taught that every crisis is different and unique, so they must slow the situation down and listen to what the individual in crisis is trying to tell them. Officers are taught to use active listening, coupled with restatement and reflection techniques, to understand the problem an individual is facing. During CIT training, officers are required to participate in different scenarios where they are able to practice the de-escalation techniques they have learned without using force.
- The third element emphasized in training is the utilization of resources. During the training, officers are put in direct contact with mental health professionals in their area so they can build relationships with these professionals. This gives the officer appropriate resources to utilize the next time they encounter an individual in crisis who needs mental health resources. Officers may be able to contact counselors, therapists, or a crisis stabilization unit to provide the individual in crisis with the help needed. This will also give the individual in crisis the resources they need for future issues they may face, hopefully preventing law enforcement from being called in some instances.
Currently, Arkansas remains the only state in the nation to create a crisis intervention partnership with state government, counties, and law enforcement agencies.