Families who have called New York City police for help during a psychiatric crisis say the 14 hours worth of training is not enough training to handle the complex emergency. Last week's release of a report from New York State with recommendations for treatment and diversion programs was heralded by advocates. Since 1988, when the police in Memphis, Tenn., designed what is now considered a model program in crisis intervention, cities nationwide have implemented similar programs. Often they work with family advocates, mental health professionals, and people with a mental illness who have been through the system. Too often cities do not respond until after a crisis, usually the death of a mentally ill suspect.
While crisis intervention teams share similar goals, unique programs have emerged to address issues specific to local communities and to train personnel. In Oklahoma City, according to information posted on the CIT webpage, conducts annual trainings to maintain a staff of at least 100 at any time. In Los Angeles, 20 percent of the force is trained. Houston boasts that it is the largest force in the nation with "829 CIT officers in patrol and 260 CIT trained officers in non-patrol assignments." Starting in 2007, all cadets received 40 hours of training, up from the previous 16, and about one-quarter of the force will be trained. New York State recently issued a report
In New York City, Rights for Imprisoned People with Psychiatric Disabilities (RIPPD) brought together relatives and experts in the prisons and courts on June 4 to discuss diverting people with a mental illness into treatment rather than jail. On the panel at the RIPPD conference were:
Maria Angelina Ortiz, regrets calling 911 when her son showed signs of paranoia and confused thinking. The officers who came to her apartment treated her son as a if he were a criminal rather than sick. Her experience has fueled activism to see that police are trained to intervene in a crisis.
Panelist Maria Angelina Ortiz addresses an audience at the open forum to discus pre-booking jail diversion programs in New York City, sponsored by RIPPD, June 4, 2008.
Ortiz, a parent, discusses a first-time experience calling 911 when her son had a psychiatric emergency needing hospitalization.
Jean Griffin still does not understand why the police beat her brother, whom they had known their entire lives, when the family called for help. At the RIPPD conference on pre-booking jail diversion held in New York City on June 4, 2008, Griffin describes the beating which resulted in 18 taser burns, and a skull broken in nine places in the church yard where he was baptized in a small town in New York.
Investigative journalist Mary Beth Pfeiffer learned of the neglect of people with psychiatric disorders who ended up in the prison system, languishing with little or no treatment and quite often psychiatric abuse in solitary confinement. She discusses some of the cases she learned about while writing Crazy in America: The Hidden Tragedy of Our Criminalized Mentally Ill....
Maarquez Claxton is a retired detective from the NYPD and a co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. His experience includes walking a beat in Harlem before he was promoted to the rank of detective.
Don Kamin, Ph.D., spoke at the New York City forum, Implementing Pre-Booking Jail Diversion Programs (sponsored by RIPPD), drawing on 20 years of experience including research indicating less violence, fewer arrests, reduced stigma, and partnerships in communities as a result...
Panelist Terence McCormick, MSW, founder of CARES, addressed an open forum about pre-booking police diversion in New York City sponsored by RIPPD on June 4, 2008. McCormick now provides technical assistance for training officials in diversion strategies. He formerly directed founded Community Forensic Services for the New York State Office of Mental Health.