Crossroads CIT efforts progress

Published 8:45 am Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Crossroads Community Services Board has seen its first class complete its 40-hour, five-day Crisis Intervention Team training.

The program is a major undertaking and one that is part of a movement intended to change how the mentally ill are perceived and how authorities interact with them.

CIT training is designed to educate law enforcement officers and other responders on how to “effectively and humanely” interact with a person with a mental illness, and connect them with assistance programs instead of simply incarcerating them, said Joe Burton, the program’s coordinator for Crossroads.

“CIT skills are an additional tool that assists officers as they respond to situations involving individuals who are in psychiatric crisis,” he said. “These calls have the potential to become high risk.”

Sixteen people may have completed the full 40-hour, five-day curriculum approved by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services; but 29 law enforcement officers, nine dispatchers and 10 from other institutions have had some training.

Training is comprised of classroom instruction and practical exercises delivered by mental health professionals, experts in other respective mental health field and CIT-trained first responders, he said.

The goal is to train at least half of each law enforcement department in the Crossroads service area of Amelia, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Prince Edward counties.

Crossroads has received a $15,000 grant that allows Burton to go out into the various localities and do the five-day training. This training helps officers more timely and effectively assesses whether the person is in need of mental health assistance, and provide officials with the skills to de-escalate the situation until it can be turned over to the appropriate personnel.