The Clarksville Police Department officially launched the City’s first Crisis Intervention Team on Dec. 3, to assist in cases where individuals face mental illness or emotional crisis and help de-escalate situations through specialized responses.
To kick off the initiative, 18 members of the police department and five members of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office attended and graduated from a 40-hour Crisis Intervention class led by the National Alliance on Mental Illness at the Clarksville Police Department Training Complex. NAMI is the nation's largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness,
“Establishing a Crisis Intervention Team is a significant and major step for us,” Police Chief David Crockarell said. “In my 26 years of working in law enforcement, the most stressful part of my job was working in the emergency room off duty and dealing with people with emotional issues and not knowing what to do. The nation needs programs like this, so let’s do our part by helping these people get the support they need.”
Law enforcement is typically the first to respond to calls involving individuals suffering from a mental or emotional crisis. This calendar year, the Clarksville Police Department has responded to over 682 calls for service requiring mental health transport and over 165 calls for suicide or suicide attempts.
According to NAMI, one in five adults experience mental illness every year, and one in six youth experience a mental disorder. The organization says that 50% of all lifetime illnesses begin by 14 and 75% by 24.
Deputy Chief Charles “Ty” Burdine recognizes that CIT is a unique person-centered approach that the CPD is unfamiliar with; however, not a difficult task that can’t be accomplished by the group of men and women who volunteered to participate in the program.
“You are a very evolved class,” he said. “Since the beginning, I watched every practical exercise- all of which were difficult - but I could see you were all extremely passionate about participating in the scenarios. Thank you all for stepping up and helping us create a team that is knowledgeable on what to do when assistance is needed.”
The police officers participating in the CIT initiative will not be dedicated explicitly to mental crises; however, they will be readily available to assist in the rare situations where CIT officers are not initially involved.
“The long-term benefit of the CIT program is beyond beneficial for everyone involved,” said Burdine. “If you look at the results from other cities with an already-established CIT, such as Memphis, you’ll notice that not only has their knowledge of mental illness improved but so has their overall police attitudes.”
“Additionally, some communities have found that CIT has reduced the time spent by officers responding to mental health calls, hence putting them back in the community in an expedited manner,” he added.
The Clarksville Police Department would like to thank the following organizations for their support and participation during the CIT training: The Alzheimer's Association, Autism Education and Therapy Center, Centerstone Crisis Services, Clarksville Fire and Rescue, Clarksville Montgomery County School System, Cohen Veterans Network, Department of Developmental Disabilities, Encompass Health and Recovery Center, and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.
For more information about mental health by the numbers, please visit https://www.nami.org/mhstats.