By Kaitlyn Mellom, Advocacy/Program Intern
A few weeks ago, NAMI Dane County partnered with the Dane County Sheriff's Office (DCSO) to host a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for 23 corrections officers. Our CIT program is designed to improve the outcomes of officer interactions with people with mental illnesses who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
In the training, we educate the participants on mental illnesses and explain why the standard protocol may not be beneficial in cases of mental health crises. Along with presentations by mental health professionals, the training also educates the participants through site visits at mental health agencies and a panel made up of individuals or their family members who have had experience with mental illness and have gone through the criminal justice system.
This was my first time being exposed to the CIT program. I thoroughly enjoyed helping to coordinate the training and attending segments during the week-long training. One of the things that really struck a chord with me was that the participants of the training were there voluntarily; they understand the need for change in the jail system and they are doing their part to begin that change.
The reaction to the week long training was overwhelmingly positive, especially in regards to the site visits and family experiences panel. I was able to meet with a couple of the case managers who had hosted site visits and it is clear that this experience was also beneficial for the consumers that participated at each location. Many emphasized they don’t want situations that they went through to be repeated so facilitating discussions between those who have mental illness and gone through the criminal justice system provided an opportunity for building trust.
Overall, CIT is allowing officers to broaden their skill set and learn in an environment that is accepting and open. I look forward to continuing to assist in coordinating these trainings and believe they will continue to be a success!