Step One: Build Partnerships
You might have heard about how valuable CIT training is, but CIT does not begin or end with training. Building lasting partnerships is one of the key components to a successful CIT program and they’re important to have in place long before you plan police officer training.
Learn about CIT
Start by learning more about CIT, like its history and core elements. Make sure you also look into how mental health advocates, law enforcement officers, mental health professionals and health care agencies plug into a successful CIT program.
The University of Memphis CIT Center maintains a database of CIT programs; use this database to find a program nearby that you can connect with and learn from. You can also reach out to your NAMI State Organization to find out about statewide or regional efforts.
Foster a Coalition of Support
Whether you’re an individual who wants to change your community, or you have a mandate to start a CIT program from your law enforcement agency, finding allies to join your effort is essential. Start by holding conversations with stakeholders in your community. Reach out to law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, your local or state NAMI and people living with mental illness. They can offer insight about mental health crisis response in your community. Start these conversations with an open mind and look for common ground.
If you’re having trouble starting the conversation, look for an influential community member with a connection to mental health issues, like a judge or elected official—these leaders can help get stakeholders to the table. As you make connections and get buy-in, you will build lasting and effective partnerships.
Don’t forget to include people with lived experience in every step of the process. They can inform you of the needs in your community and provide feedback.
Create a Formal Community Partnership
Take steps to formalize your work. Ask leaders from mental health organizations, law enforcement agencies, your local NAMI and other important community leaders to join a formal steering committee for implementing a CIT program. This steering committee will provide the leadership, commitment and resources to make real change, such as revising policies, gathering data on mental health crises in your community, advocating for more mental health services and planning police officer training.
Identify a steering committee chairperson and CIT coordinator and consider sending them to training. CIT International offers a training to certify CIT coordinators. Many CIT programs also use subcommitees or workgroups to work on particular problems in their community. Feel free to visit another CIT program in your area to see how their community partners work together.
Continue to Step Two: Create Change