Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $500,000)
The University of South Alabama (USA) Department Community-Based Crisis Intervention Training and Support for Primary Responders (CIT-NET) project will enhance and increase the availability of Crisis Intervention Team Training and resources for local communities. The CIT International and Bureau of Justice Assistance curriculums for effectively responding to individuals in a mental health crisis emphasize the need for meaningful law enforcement-community partnerships, not just police training. However, the participants in CIT courses have historically been mostly from law enforcement. The unfortunate and unintended outcome of this focused training is that trained officers respond appropriately only to encounter barriers in many communities because other key primary responders are not on the same page. Many communities will never have the resources to provide dedicated co-responder teams. Others have limitations under state law, yet others do not have adequate assessment and treatment facilities. Southern Alabama faces all of these challenges. Consequently, relationships at the front-line level are equally crucial as buy-in from administrators.
In most of these communities, law enforcement officers, emergency medical technicians, and hospital emergency department personnel are the initial and primary groups caring for people in a mental health crisis. Thus, an effective community response plan requires a plan that primary responders can execute within their existing roles. The CIT-NET project will develop a transdisciplinary curriculum to provide a cohesive training experience for three distinct community primary responder groups: (1) law enforcement, (2) emergency medical technicians, and (3) hospital emergency department personnel. The CIT-NET curriculum will consist of common and unique modules since the distinct fields have different knowledge, skills, and abilities. The standard sessions will cover community resources and collaborations and include scenario-based training. The specialized sessions will present topics such as mental health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and policies and procedures at the appropriate level and specific to the practical needs of each discipline. Community site visits will vary by cohort, so each one develops an enhanced understanding of the challenges encountered by other community responders. Since low staffing levels, heavy workloads, and shift work in all of these fields present significant barriers to training, the CIT-NET project will also create online training options to increase accessibility and facilitate the ongoing training necessary to maintain competency. The CIT-NET Project is a collaboration of the following units: USA Police, Combined-Integrated Clinical & Counseling Psychology Ph.D. Program, B.S. in Emergency Medical Services, University Hospital, and the Center for Continuing Education.