County police and county Health and Human Services workers on Wednesday marked 10 years of a program aimed at responding to mental health crisis situations.
The county's Crisis Intervention Team comprises hundreds of sworn officers trained to answer emergency calls dealing with mental health issues.
“I think the benefits [of CIT] are huge,” said Officer Scott Davis, the CIT coordinator, who addressed a luncheon and awards ceremony for the program in Rockville. “It’s advantageous to everybody. It works out really well and the officers are definitely saving lives every day.”
The vast majority of the issues to which the team responds are thought and mood disorders, Davis said. Thought disorders typically include delusional disorders and schizophrenia, while mood disorders generally include major depression and bipolar disorder.
In 2010, the 579 sworn officers in the CIT program answered 4,400 calls for mental illness-related crisis, Davis said.
Officers training for CIT must complete a 40-hour class in which they learn about the disorders and how to best assist someone when on a call.
“The course is half police driven, half therapist driven,” Davis said. “So we have clinical therapists, psychiatrists, doctors, and we also have police officers that have been involved personally with the CIT program share their stories and go through different clinical case studies.”
Awards were presented to the Montgomery County Police Department and members of the Department of Health and Human Services for their successful collaboration over the past decade.
“It’s one of those things that works well and continues to work well,” said Dudley Warner, senior administrator for crisis mental health victims, and one of the award recipients. “They’ve done it because they believe in it and it’s the right thing to do.”
The CIT program started in 2001 under former program coordinator Joan Logan. Since then, more than 1,200 officers from various agencies have trained with the program.
Most of the program works without any taxpayer funding, Davis said.
“We have approximately a $7,000 budget through Health and Human Services that’s dedicated to CIT training,” he said. “However, the vast majority of our training is in-house … It’s all clinically based, so we use a therapist, we use the police officers and we teach it.
“What’s good is having it here at the Montgomery County Crisis Center. If we do a 40-hour course, the clinicians are able to leave their work station, come and teach an hour-long class and go back, so it costs nothing at all to the taxpayer.”