Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Police Training Boosts Likelihood That People With Mental Illness Will Get Needed Care

Police officers with Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training not only know more about mental illness than their untrained counterparts but are more likely to obtain professional help for people with mental disorders when encountering them in the course of their work.

CIT training improved officers’ knowledge, attitudes, and skills regarding mental illness, wrote Michael Compton, M.D., M.P.H., of the Department of Psychiatry at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, and colleagues in two related articles published online (here and here) in Psychiatric Services in Advance.

The greatest effect size was for de-escalation skills, which are particularly important, the researchers said, "because the ‘criminalization’ of mental illnesses may be prominently related to impulsivity or emotionally motivated responses [by police] to perceived provocation, rather than to untreated symptoms alone.”

CIT-trained officers were also more likely to refer or transport subjects to treatment sites rather than arrest them after encounters. This was especially true when the officers needed physical force to control the individual. In those cases, they were more likely to refer to services rather than to arrest. These results suggest that CIT training serves its intended purpose as a form of prebooking diversion from the criminal justice system, concluded Compton and colleagues.

To read more in Psychiatric News about training police officers to respond to individuals with mental illness, see the article Crisis Intervention Teams Enhance Safety of Police, Patients."

(Image: Lisa F. Young/


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