Have you ever wondered what the national standard for a CIT curriculum looks like? Now, thanks to a new collaboration between NAMI, the University of Memphis (U of M), the International Association of Chiefs of Police and CIT International, there will be an answer to that question. Historically each community has developed its own CIT training curriculum based on local needs, the strengths of local experts and often with a neighboring community’s curriculum on hand as a template. This leaves some CIT leaders with questions about whether their training is comparable to what’s being taught in CIT trainings across the country.
The new collaboration, lead by U of M with a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), is collecting curricula from around the country and analyzing them to see whether CIT programs from Florida to Maine, California to Washington, D.C, are teaching the same basic information and skills to officers. Then, with the guidance of experts and extensive feedback from local CIT stakeholders around the country, U of M is creating a single standardized curriculum model. The model will not be a rigid and detailed prescription, but rather a summary of the national consensus among thousands of CIT programs about the topics that should appear in the training, the time dedicated to them, and the objectives of each topic.
There are excellent guidelines for CIT trainings already existing, but this project is different: it is based on a national survey of local CIT programs and includes representatives from all stakeholder groups.
A second and equally important part of this project is the development of a set of “community engagement” strategies – the components that make CIT a community program, rather than just a training program. To better understand the challenges that communities face, and how they overcome them, NAMI hosted CIT feedback sessions at the 2011 NAMI Annual Convention in July and the CIT International Conference in September.
During these sessions, NAMI asked participants what helped their CIT program get started and what was a barrier to their success. The responses from NAMI members and law enforcement officers identified similar challenges, including lack of mental health resources in the community and lack of funding for law enforcement agencies to meet staffing and training needs. Participants also emphasized that attitudes and preconceptions can have a profound effect on the ability of organizations to work together. They identified longstanding misunderstandings and mistrust between potential partner organizations as well as community stigma about mental illness. Finally, communities with successful CIT programs faced further challenges in raising awareness in the broader community and sustaining the program over the long haul.
Fortunately, participants also identified a wide variety of strategies for creating strong partnerships to build and sustain effective CIT programs, including getting buy-in at all levels of law enforcement (from chiefs and sheriffs down to uniform patrol), advocacy for better mental health services and face-to-face interaction between officers and people living with mental illness. Participants emphasized the importance of data and evaluation, networking with state-level organizations-- state mental health authorities, POST, statewide CIT networks and NAMI State Organizations—and adherence to the Memphis Model of CIT.
You are invited to participate in this process by visiting the U of M website and responding to the CIT curriculum and community engagement surveys. Your feedback is important to this process!
Be on the lookout for new resources and information as this project progresses!
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