National Alliance on Mental Illness Berkshire County

Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT)

Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) training programs are local initiatives designed to improve the way law enforcement and the community responds to people experiencing mental health crises. They are built on strong partnerships between law enforcement, mental health provider agencies and individuals and families affected by mental illness. NAMI Berkshire County’s CIT program was established in 2010 and has trained 130 Berkshire County officers and first responders.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), child and teen mental health issues and suicide prevention are among the areas that will be covered during the weeklong training. Traditional police tactics can backfire in a crisis call and a person suffering from an emotional disturbance can go from being afraid to aggressive. A unique feature of CIT is the use of actors who create scenarios allowing the officers a chance to practice their skills. The tactics and strategies learned will improve outcomes and minimize risk for both police officers and civilians in the event of a crisis. Families calling for help can request a CIT trained officer, someone trained to de-escalate a crisis situation thus minimizing the toll taken upon relatives and friends.

“This has become one of the most popular training programs among our officers,” says Lt. Colonel Thomas Grady of the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office. “They hear from colleagues who have previously taken this course that there is no better training to learn how to deal with people with mental illnesses and people in crisis.”

We continue to have full support from our core partners: Berkshire County Sheriff’s Department, Berkshire Community College, Brien Center and Berkshire Coalition for Suicide Prevention.   These core partners are a major player on the development and execution of the CIT program as we maintain close contact with their staff, thus ensuring that the curriculum reflects the most current and pressing needs of our community. For example, speaking with officers from Pittsfield, Hinsdale, North Adams and Dalton we know that most of their crisis calls involve an individual with a mental illness. The Berkshire County Coalition for Suicide Prevention corroborates the fact that officers are often called to respond to youth suicide county wide.

Persons with mental illnesses comprise 30% of the population in the Berkshire County House of Correction. These individuals would be better served in the community through social services and treatment by the medical establishment not by incarceration. Untreated mental illness can wreak havoc upon families and the community at large. Alcohol and drug addiction are frequent co-occurring disorders and combatting heroin use in this county is high priority for the district attorney’s office and law enforcement agencies. First responders need effective tools to recognize and deal with these individuals in crisis to keep them, their loved ones, and the public safe with the best outcome being to get them the help they need not punishment for a serious medical condition.

The goal of the Crisis Intervention Team training is safety: for the community, the law enforcement officer and the person in crisis. CIT not only promotes safety for all involved, it also links the person in crisis to services in the community when possible. Click here to view the CIT Outcomes Evaluation.

For more information about NAMI Berkshire County’s CIT Program, call 413-443-1666 or email namibc@namibc.org