The Amherst Police Department has recently received grant money from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts the Department of Mental Health to form a CRISIS INTERVENTION TEAM (CIT). The grant funding the development of the CIT is categorized as a jail diversion effort. The Amherst Police Department has recognized a severe increase in calls for service involving those with mental health crisis related issues. These calls have often been responded to in a traditional manner of arrest or transport to the emergency department.
Through the use of a CIT, with the goal of jail diversion, the department hopes to reduce the overall number of calls for service in this area by effectively handling them the first time with educated awareness and innovative approaches rather than have repeated calls for service handled in a traditional manner associated with law enforcement.
Under the leadership of Chief of Police Scott P. Livingstone the vast majority of the Amherst Police Department have completed a specialized, 40 hour, training provided by Behavioral Health Network of Springfield, MA. This training offers officers the opportunity to specialize their response to calls for service which involve persons suffering from mental illness or a particular mental health crisis.
Officers are trained in specific types of mental illness and specialized de-escalation techniques for specific target groups. The training also exposes them to first hand experiences of both officers and citizens who have had both beneficial and detrimental outcomes to police responses during times of crisis.
Officer involvement in the CIT is voluntary. The officers involved with the team are determined to provide a better quality of life, through individualized and specialized responses, to a portion of the population who are more likely to experience homelessness, suicide, incarceration, and victimization of various crimes due to their mental health status.
The law enforcement community is on the front line of responding to instances of mental health crisis. Recently there have been proven results in non-traditional, educated, responses to instances of crisis. Law enforcement officers alone cannot provide all the services needed by someone in mental health crisis. CIT offers officers an opportunity to connect with stakeholders in the community who provide services to those suffering from mental illness on a daily basis. The objective is not merely to pass individuals off to the local service providers but to assist in personally making that connection with the individual who is in need of services. CIT officers are often involved in follow-up conversations with individuals as well as the service providers to ensure the best outcome for the person in crisis and the community as a whole.
Through the development of the CIT the Amherst Police Department is proud to have established strong and ever growing partnerships with our local service providers. Through stakeholder meetings, and joint efforts to provide services to individuals in crisis, the following service providers have worked closely with the CIT:
CSO – Clinical & Support Options
University of Massachusetts Health Services Counseling Center
University of Massachusetts Police Department
Amherst College Counseling Center and Amherst College Police Department
Hampshire College Counseling Center and Hampshire College Dept. of Public Safety
What is it?
A law enforcement focused approach to respond to instances of mental illness crisis.
A pre-arrest jail diversion program.
A program designed to promote partnerships among police, individuals with mental illness, families, and mental health professionals.
Goals of the CIT:
Improve services provided to those community members who are suffering from a mental health crisis at any given moment.
Develop a more educated, safe, and effective response to mental health crisis.
Provide respect and dignity during police response to those dealing with mental health crisis.
Prevent unnecessary arrests and emergency room visits by individualizing responses with vested officer interest.
Decrease instances of use of force involving those in mental health crisis.
Reduce the number of repeat calls for service by being more involved on initial calls for service to a person suffering a mental health crisis.
Promote trust and respect on a mutual level between those members of the community who are in mental health crisis and often fear a traditional police response.