Selecting the appropriate officers for CIT is crucial to the effectiveness of the program. All department officers should be given an opportunity to volunteer for the program after which command staff should choose those officers they feel will best fulfill the responsibilities expected of a CIT officer. Some departments want everyone in their workforce trained and that is viable as well.
CIT training consists of a one-week, 40-hour block of state-certified instruction. Topics include, but are not limited to, mental illness recognition, co-occurring disorders, child and adolescent disorders, psychotropic medications, working with older adults, medical conditions that mimic mental illness, autism and intellectual disabilities, compliant surrender and tactical response, excited delirium syndrome, risk assessment and crisis intervention skills, understanding mental health and developmental disabilities law, and working with returning combat veterans. Locally-identified issues of concern may also be addressed.
Advocacy, recovery, and combating stigma are aspects taught to officers. A curriculum of content which must be taught is approved by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board which is also the funder and State of Illinois originator of CIT. CIT training is conducted in a partnership with Mobile Training Units which are the regional training authorities within Illinois – the regional authority for this geographical area is MTU-14 which is officed in Belleville within the St. Clair County Jail.
In addition to training presentations consisting primarily of interactive lecture, officers participate in a variety of valuable exercises. In one such exercise officers listen to an iPod playing “voices” that simulate the auditory hallucinations that many individuals with a mental illness may experience. While listening to these voices, officers rotate through a series of workstations where they are required to perform cognitive tasks which allows officers to gain insight into what an individual who is hearing voices might be experiencing. In addition, and whenever possible, Janssen Pharmaceutica provides “Virtual Hallucinations” via a laptop-based application whereby officers experience visual, auditory, and olfactory hallucinations simultaneously for about an eight minute period with the opportunity for debriefing/discussion afterwards with the Janssen professional who has expertise in mental illness-related issues. This exercise allows students to gain insight into what an individual who is psychotic might be experiencing.
During the week, each officer will have a unique opportunity to participate in discussions with individuals who have a mental illness and/or their family members. Those individuals typically share their personal experiences including any they may have had previously with law enforcement, and are able to explain to officers what their needs were/are in a crisis situation, what works and doesn’t seem to work, and officers are also able to ask questions of those individuals. NAMI SWI has been a partner in CIT training since it began in this area in 2003.
An essential part of the CIT training is scenario-based role-play training. Officers are given realistic scenarios such as they might encounter in whatever area of law enforcement they are assigned. People who have mental illnesses are portrayed by professional improvisational actors and examples of scenarios include suicide interventions, de-escalating a potentially violent situation, responding to a call involving an individual experiencing paranoia, or a person interacting with a peer in a manic episode behaving in an inappropriate manner. All scenarios are facilitated by and evaluated by state-certified CIT officers, and successful passage of this portion of the training is required to complete the course, and receive subsequent CIT certification.
Calling Law Enforcement for Service
Consumers who recognize they need law enforcement to respond to a situation in a location should always ask the dispatcher or 911 operator to send a CIT officer if they believe that the situation will be best resolved by such officer. In the NAMI SWI region there are enough CIT officers that the likelihood of having a CIT officer available is great in most communities and rural areas, and thus such a request should be made if needed