Twenty years ago, a Northeast Ohio Medical University psychiatry professor and an Akron police department lieutenant teamed up to bring about a new collaboration between law enforcement and mental health systems aimed at helping direct people with mental illness to treatment instead of incarceration.
Their efforts took hold: Today, every single one of Ohio’s 88 counties has officers trained in Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) service.
In May, 49 Ohio law enforcement officers were recognized for 20 years of service as Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officers. Each officer received a certificate of appreciation signed by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a special commemorative 20-year CIT pin and a letter of gratitude from leadership of the partners that advance and support CIT in Ohio: the Ohio Criminal Justice Coordinating Center of Excellence (CJ CCoE), based at NEOMED; the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Ohio (NAMI Ohio); and the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (OhioMHAS).
“CIT programs are collaborative efforts between law enforcement and mental health systems to help officers direct people with mental illness to treatment instead of unnecessary incarceration. The 40–hour CIT training provides practical techniques for safely de-escalating mental health crises. Officers learn to integrate some different approaches with their police training when responding to a person they believe to have a mental illness,” says Michael S. Woody, a retired Akron Police Department lieutenant and past president of CIT International.
Leading community partnerships
Lt. Woody and Mark Munetz, M.D., Northeast Ohio Medical University professor and chair emeritus of psychiatry, were the lead proponents of bringing CIT to Ohio in 2000. “From just two counties with CIT programs in 2000, we reached an incredible milestone about a year ago. Today all 88 Ohio counties have trained CIT officers. In addition, more than 16,000 professionals have been trained throughout Ohio, of which nearly 12,000 are sworn law enforcement officers,” says Dr. Munetz.
Retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio Evelyn Lundberg Stratton played a key role in spreading CIT throughout Ohio. “We are all so grateful to these officers for volunteering to serve as Ohio’s first CIT officers and for setting examples of dedication and professionalism for the many others who followed. So many individuals with mental illness, their families and friends and their communities rely on CIT officers to ensure safe, compassionate interactions and access to mental health care throughout the recovery process,” says Justice Stratton.
Of the 80 officers who completed one of the three CIT training courses held in Ohio in 2000 – two in Summit and one in Lucas County – 49 (61 percent) remain active with CIT today: 27 across seven jurisdictions in Summit County, 18 in Toledo (Lucas County), two in Hancock County (one each in Findlay P.D. and Hancock County Sheriff’s Office) and two in Lancaster P.D. (Fairfield County).
“Today, CIT in Ohio is truly more than training; it is a community partnership. The CJ CCoE and NAMI Ohio are pleased to partner in providing technical assistance and guidance to promote implementation and expansion of CIT in Ohio, and are grateful to our many partners and supporters,” says Ruth H. Simera, executive director of the NEOMED Coordinating Centers of Excellence, and Terry Russell, executive director of NAMI Ohio.
“Lt. Woody, Dr. Munetz and Justice Stratton continue to be passionate CIT champions. Other CIT partners include the Office of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services, the County of Summit Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board, the Office of Criminal Justice Services, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and many others.”