Crisis Intervention Team Members Express Concern With Mental Health Funding Issues

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CIT tackles the social issue of unnecessary incarceration of individuals with mental health issues.

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If mental health providers are unable to participate in this training, it will not have the same impact. We need the collaboration of mental health providers and law enforcement officers to continue to make this a success.

While mental health advocates are fighting to preserve State support for the community mental health system, the Bergen County Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is actively working to support individuals with serious mental illness by emphasizing the need for collaboration between law enforcement, first responders and mental health professionals.

By establishing this alliance, the efforts of the CIT help participants to better understand how to navigate the mental health and law enforcement systems so that they can improve connection to services for those in the community.

Effective communication and interaction between these community systems tackles the social issue of unnecessary incarceration. Instead of putting individuals in jails for minor offenses, officers are being trained to link them to resources within the community.

During a Legislative Breakfast in Washington Township on October 19th, law enforcement professionals explained how taking support away from the community mental health system will create a greater burden on law enforcement.

“I am particularly concerned about the medication piece in all of this,” declared Patrick Hughes from the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office. “That is the cornerstone of acute stabilization. The idea that it might not be available for inmates coming out, it’s a catastrophe.”

Hughes stated that if State support for the community mental health system dissolves, the undeniable result will be more people with serious mental illness being put into the county jail. Once incarcerated, data shows that individuals with serious mental illness are in hail three times longer than individuals without a mental illness.

Another major social issue is homelessness, and experts have claimed that without access to proper mental health care and treatment, many homeless individuals will commit increasingly offensive crimes in order to be incarcerated and stay warm this winter.

“We don’t want to have to be separate again,” stated Ed Dobleman, CIT-NJ Director, after explaining the benefit of uniting law enforcement and mental health professionals. “With this funding plan, we will be taking three steps back instead of two steps forward.”

The cuts that are threatening the community mental health system will also affect the CIT trainings. There will be less time and resources to provide the trainings, and less opportunities available for interaction between law enforcement and mental health professionals.

“CIT benefits everyone who may be involved during a mental health crisis; from the consumer, their family and friends, law enforcement, mental health providers and the community," Amie Del Sordo, Director of 262-HELP and Bergen County CIT Mental Health Coordinator, explained.

“If mental health providers are unable to participate in this training, it will not have the same impact. We need the collaboration of mental health providers and law enforcement officers to continue to make this a success. Without the mental health providers at the table, the spirit of CIT will be impacted.” Del Sordo concluded, expressing concern with the impending fee for service changes headed to New Jersey and how this could potentially impact CIT.

The stakeholders for CIT training include police officers, mental health professionals, and advocates. Fourteen counties in New Jersey are actively offering this training within their communities, which can be found online at: http://www.cit-nj.org/

This year, the CIT was approved to complete four 40-hour trainings within the county, sponsored by the Bergen County Prosecutors office. The first two trainings were held in June and in September, training a total of 61 professionals in Bergen County. Del Sordo explained, “Because of the Prosecutor’s commitment to support CIT, Bergen County will have successfully trained over 150 law enforcement officers & mental health providers by the end of 2017.”

A number of news articles have been published since the first trainings, most notably praising the New York and New Jersey Port Authority Police for saving lives on the George Washington Bridge.

The next Bergen County CIT training is set for December 5th-9th. Those who are interested in, or have any question about the Bergen County CIT, can contact Amie Del Sordo at AmieD@CarePlusNJ.org or by phone at 201-262-7108.

The second annual CIT-NJ Forum is also being held on December 12th, 2016 at the Middlesex County Fire Academy, 1001 fire Academy Drive, Sayreville from 9am-3pm.

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Caitlyn Yerves
Care Plus NJ
since: 01/2010
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