(By Colleen Mulligan, practicum student, and Jim Braibish)
More police officers in St. Louis County and around the area are being trained to handle mental health situations they may encounter on a call, Sgt. Jeremy Romo, director of the St. Louis County Crisis Intervention Team, said in a presentation to the Nov. 16 St. Louis Family & Community Partnership meeting.
He described the work of the County Police Crisis Intervention Team. Members of the team attend 40 hours of training that prepares them to help calm persons with mental health issues who may be distressed and causing a disturbance. “As first responders, we are called upon to help de-escalate these situations,” Sgt. Romo said.
The County Police have at least one CIT-trained officer on duty at each precinct at all times. Most often, there are a number of CIT-trained officers on hand, he said. Other departments throughout the area, including the St. Louis Police, most municipal departments, and departments in St. Charles and Jefferson counties, also have CIT programs. The St. Louis County CIT program began in 2004.
More information that Sgt. Romo shared:
• Mental health providers do most of the training. They discuss mental health disorders, how to intervene appropriately, and importance of treatment. Some community partners include NAMI and St. Louis Arc.
• The training also includes panel discussions and role plays from people in the community who have experience with individuals with a mental health diagnose.
• Training emphasizes de-escalation of situations, with the goal of insuring safety of the person experiencing problems as well as law enforcement officers.
• When calling 911 you can explain the situation and request a CIT trained officer.
• Romo emphasized that law enforcement learns that investing their time with individual responses is helpful and can lead to better outcomes for everyone.
• For the past few years, all recruits have received Mental Health First Aid training.
• Other trainings offered:
o CIT Youth- focuses on responding to youth who have mental health concerns.
o CIT Veteran-focuses on responding to veterans who have mental health concerns.
o Advanced CIT- for those who have been through the basic 40-hour CIT training. Among other topics, this includes trauma training.
• Every county in the state has community mental health liaisons that can respond to calls with law enforcement to help individuals in distress access services ASAP (Liaisons include staff from BJC, Hopewell, BHR; funding support is provided by the Missouri Dept. of Mental Health).
• CIT collaborates with health providers to meet and discuss problems they are having, and to enable networking when problems occur.
• Communication among the collaboration allows them to effectively work together.
Sgt. Romo is interested in presenting to the public about mental health responses and to build trust and partnership with the community.
For more information:
• http://www.stlouisco.com/LawandPublicSafety/CrisisInterventionTeam/ParticipatingAgenciesandDepartments (lists participating agencies with CIT)
• http://www.missouricit.org/st-louis-area-cit-council (state website with CIT information for every county, some counties do not have CIT yet)
• Sgt. Jeremy Romo, email@example.com, 314.615.7117