As part of Chester County’s recognition of National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day on January 9th, the Chester County Commissioners note the success of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, a crucial tool that helps to de-escalate mental health crisis situations and enhance safety and access to treatment.
“Because law enforcement personnel have vital responsibilities as front-line caretakers in assessing and managing offenders with mental illness, CIT training provides them with the skills to manage crises,” noted County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz, Josh Maxwell and Michelle Kichline.
Chester County’s Department of Mental Health/Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities (MH/IDD) has worked with law enforcement for five years, and more recently expanded the training to the first responder community, to address the increased prevalence of mental health conditions among people they encounter. CIT teaches law enforcement and first responders how to deal with individuals with mental health illnesses or who are in a mental health crisis. CIT provides the tools and knowledge to de-escalate situations safely and connect people to treatment.
Susanne Fink, Mental Health Diversion Specialist/Certified CIT Coordinator for Chester County, said, “Law enforcement is the default responder to emergencies within the criminal justice system and the crisis response system. Because of this, it is essential for officers to have the tools and skillset to deal with people in the midst of a mental health crisis in order to get them the proper treatment – which often is not in a jail cell.”
A total of 329 officers and first responders have gone through CIT training in Chester County including officers from municipal police departments and the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP); Chester County detectives, corrections officers, deputy sheriffs, 9-1-1 dispatchers and staff from the Department of Adult Probation and Veteran’s Affairs; and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) from across the county.
MH/IDD offers a 40-hour law enforcement CIT training course twice a year. Full-day trainings are offered three times per year to 911 dispatchers and EMTs.