Alexandria’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) held an Awards Ceremony and Cookout on Thursday, September 6. Hosted by Mayor William D. Euille, Police Chief Earl L. Cook, Sheriff Dana Lawhorne, and Liz Wixson from the Department of Community and Human Services, four Alexandria Crisis Intervention Team members were honored.
Awards were presented to Teresa Smith, CIT DEC Employee of the Year; Lieutenant John Kapetanis, CIT Deputy of the Year; Officer Bennie Evans; CIT Officer of the Year; Officer Joe Kirby, CIT Intervention of the Year.
Alexandria’s Crisis Intervention Team was developed in collaboration with the Department of Community and Human Services, the Alexandria Police Department, and the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office to help improve staff interactions and outcomes with persons with mental illness and substance use disorders. Unlike most CIT programs across the country which are comprised solely of police officers, Alexandria’s program includes staff from all first responding agencies to ensure that a comprehensive, City-wide approach is in place to assist residents with mental illness. Through their 40 hours of training, officers and deputies learn skills such as suicide intervention, verbal de-escalation techniques, the role of the family in the care of a person with mental illness, and legal training in mental health and substance abuse issues. In addition to classroom instruction, officers participate in role playing exercises based on real-life scenarios and spend a day visiting mental health and substance abuse inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities where they have the opportunity to engage in one-on-one dialogue with mental health consumers.
CIT is based on a model developed by the Memphis Police Department in 1988 following a police shooting of a person with mental illness, and has since been adopted in communities in 45 states. The training is designed to educate and prepare police and other officials who come in contact with people with mental illnesses to recognize the signs and symptoms and to respond effectively and appropriately.
The program is one of a number of cooperative, multi-agency initiatives currently underway in Alexandria to help divert persons with mental illness and substance use disorders away from the criminal justice system and into the treatment system, enabling them to live law-abiding and productive lives in our community. Over 150 first responders have been trained in Alexandria.