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Dealing with the Mentally Ill | Research

Abstract

Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs) receive little formal training in de-escalation of individuals in crisis who have a mental illness. Such insufficient training has led to negative outcomes of encounters between LEOs and people with mental illness, including: increased rates of injury/death of officers and/or people with mental health issues, more frequent use of force with individuals having a mental illness, criminalization of individuals with mental illness, and a failure to provide adequate care leading to repeat calls for service and/or re-arrest(s). Ameliorating these negative outcomes has led to development of mental health-based specialized mental health responses, police-based specialized mental health responses, and police-based specialized police responses to mental health emergencies. Current literature supports a police-based specialized police response known as the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT).  The CIT model incorporates specialized training for officers as well as collaborations with community mental health resources in dealing with individuals with mental illness, and who are in crisis.  The proposed study utilized a nonequivalent matched control group (CIT versus non-CIT officers) design to assess the efficacy of the CIT model. Participants included 63 CIT-trained officers (52 male and 11 female) and 680 non-CIT officers (612 male and 68 female). The control group was matched with their CIT counterparts on several characteristics (e.g., member of a special teams unit, years of service) prior to inclusion in the study. Results provide support for the effectiveness of CIT training with LEOs.  Significant differences were observed between groups in call disposition with respect to the Baker Act (involuntary hospitalization) and informal referral (giving advice to the subject). Specifically, CIT trained officers were more likely to utilize an involuntary hospitalization or provide an informal referral than to arrest.  Implications of the findings for training and policies relevant to both mental health and law enforcement professionals are presented.

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