New York City’s Crisis Intervention Training Program (CIT) is a partnership among the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the New York Police Department, and the Center for Urban Community Services | CUCS.
CIT is an international movement that began in Memphis in 1988 to help change the way police interact with people in crisis. Through a partnership of health service providers, law enforcement, and the community, New York City created its CIT program four years ago with an ultimate goal of reducing the number of emotionally disturbed people (EDP) in the New York City criminal justice system.
The four-day training program equips officers with the information needed to work with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. Held at the New York City Police Academy, the training is a mixture of lecture, experience, and role playing with professional actors, and peer panels that are comprised of people with lived experiences in the mental health system. With safety for officers, the person in crisis, family members, and the community as a goal, the CIT program has trained over 10,000 officers and has a commitment to train all active duty officers.
The four-day CIT program includes in-classroom lectures co-taught by NYPD Police Officers and CUCS trainers. The CIT lectures provide officers with the opportunity to learn about crisis communication and develop strategies to safely deescalate situations with individuals in crisis.
Overviews of several mental health conditions often encountered in law enforcement interactions, like schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder, are discussed during the lectures.
Learning about mental health diagnoses during the lectures enables the officers to better understand the conditions. The trainers discuss the myths surrounding mental illnesses, show informative films, and share real-life stories that officers have experienced during active duty.
In addition to a special focus for officers during lecture sessions on depression, PTSD, and suicide, the training includes an officer wellness module. This module includes a look at the impact stress has on individuals and how this can impact officers mental and physical health. The trainers review three different strategies with the officers for self-care, including nutrition, exercise, and mindfulness, encouraging them to develop their own individual wellness strategy.
The CIT Peer Panel is comprised of individuals with various lived experiences, including interactions with the criminal justice system, mental health diagnoses, and substance use.
The panel speaks to the officers about their lives and experiences with crisis situations and law enforcement. This gives the officers a unique opportunity to learn from individuals who have had both positive and negative experiences with law enforcement when experiencing a personal crisis.
The last session of each day at the CIT training involves role-play scenarios with actors, all professional actors contracted by CUCS. The scenarios are part of the CIT program to provide ‘real-life’ opportunities for officers to use the tools they’ve learned during the lecture modules.
Scenarios are developed by the NYPD and CUCS trainers and the framework for each is provided to the actors, who in turn research the diagnosis and develop characters to provide realistic experiences to officers for dealing with individuals in crisis.
The importance of using professional actors is critical to providing a ‘real-life’ training for officers to explore the communications and deescalation techniques learned during the lecture modules.
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