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Nearly 50% of young people have experienced a mental health condition during their lifetime, and more than 10% have a serious condition. All too often, youth who experience mental illness end up in the juvenile justice system, where 70% of youth are living with one or more mental health conditions.
To address the growing number of young people with mental illness in the juvenile justice system, communities around the country have expanded their Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs to meet the specific needs of youth. CIT for Youth programs teach law enforcement officers to connect young people who need help to effective services and supports in their community by training officers about adolescent brain development and how mental health symptoms present in youth.
These programs build partnerships between schools, school-based police officers, children’s mental health providers and parents. The goal is to intervene early to prevent youth from becoming involved in the juvenile justice system.
1. Building Community Partnerships. The key to CIT for Youth is strong working relationships between families, schools, mental health providers and law enforcement. Build these relationships for a solid foundation.
2. Mapping Assets and Services. To get a handle on what’s working, bring together law enforcement, schools, the juvenile justice system and other youth-serving systems to map out the resources and gaps in your community.
3. Planning and Coordinating. Once you know how your system is working, you and your partners can decide where changes need to be made—whether it’s addressing a gap in services, changing a policy or providing transportation to families in need.
4. Planning CIT for Youth Training. Planning a training requires selecting the right officers (most agencies choose school-based officers), choosing how much training to provide and recruiting trainers. There isn’t a standard curriculum model, but there are many examples from other communities to get you started.
5. Measuring Effectiveness and Ensuring Sustainability. To be effective long-term, you’ll need to measure the outcomes of your program, sustain your partnerships and get community support for the program.
For a step-by-step guide on getting started, download Responding to Youth with Mental Health Needs: A CIT for Youth Implementation Manual. For hard copies, purchase this publication in the NAMI store.
Call the NAMI Helpline at
text "NAMI" to 741741