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Catholic Charities Supports Crisis Intervention Teams

Mental health consumer, family, provider, religious groups and legislative leaders joined in Albany on March 18, 2014 to express their support for statewide implementations of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT).

“We are here to express their fervent hope that funding will be found to launch this national acclaimed and adopted innovative program” said Carla Rabinowitz of the 60 member Communities for Crisis Intervention Teams in NYC.

The Crisis Intervention Team model typically provides 40 hours of comprehensive mental health training to local police officers and pairs them with local mental health professionals and programs to help de-escalate potentially threatening situations and to avoid the use of excessive force and avoidable incarcerations.

While over 2,700 cities and localities have adopted CITs, only 3 localities in NYS have, leaving out most localities and New York City

“We come today to urge policy makers to adopt this nationally acclaimed, evidenced based program that has saved countless lives, avoided innumerable incarcerations and provided long overdue support to police first responders,” said Harvey Rosenthal, executive director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Service.

Senator David Carlucci, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, Senator Kevin Parker and Assemblyman Jeffrion Aubry were on hand to express their support for the program.

The groups cited the numerous benefit of the CIT program.
• Less need for the use of lethal force and reductions in violence to both police and people with mental illnesses.
• Reduction in Officer Injuries: Average reduction in officer injuries is 85%.
• Reduction in injuries to mental health consumers: Reported injuries to mentally ill individuals are reduced an average of 40 %.
• Other benefits include: the reduction in time officers spend “off patrol”, a reduction in ER recidivism rates, a decrease of involuntary hospital admissions, an often dramatic reduction in the census of persons with mental illness in jail custody, and an overall reduction in the arrest rate.

The CIT initiative also has strong support from a broad array of statewide and regional mental health advocacy groups including Mental Health Association of NYS, the NYS Catholic Conference, the National Alliance on Mental Illness-NYC, Families Together, the Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies, NASW-NYS, Communities for Crisis Intervention Teams in NYC, New York Association in Independent Living, Mental Health Empowerment Project and the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.

The advocates are seeking a $2 million allocation to provide start up grants to help localities to implement CIT programs that are designed to meet local needs.

CITs are especially an important tool to divert hundreds of thousands of Americans with mental illness from the criminal justice system. According to the Bureau of Justice, Incarceration rates have risen from 283,800 in 1998 to 705,600 in 2006 (78,800 in federal prisons and 479,900 in local jails). A 2010 examination of NYS prisons showed a 42% increase over the past decade and, as of mid-October, a 70 percent increase over all of 2009. Moreover, people with mental illnesses comprise 2-4 times more probationers and parolees than the general population, according to the National Institute of Corrections.

Family members of people with mental illnesses have long called for adoption of this initiative and spoke passionately on its behalf.

“By providing police officers with the tools they need to deescalate crisis situations, CIT improves outcomes for individuals in emotional distress -- as well as for their families, our communities and the police -- by reducing officer injuries and deaths,” said, Wendy Brennan executive director of NAMI-NYC Metro.

"My 22 year old son who has Asperger's syndrome has narrowly escaped tragic misunderstandings with authorities due to his disability. Training for authorities will help allay concerns and misunderstandings and ensure his safety as well as others, “said Paige Pierce, Executive Director of Families Together in New York State.

Groups representing New Yorkers with mental health conditions also enthusiastically backed bringing this initiative to interested localities across the state.

“Crisis Intervention Teams have a big impact on this by providing law enforcement officers with the tools to interact with us more effectively,” said Amy Colesante, Executive Director of the Mental Health Empowerment Project.

The demands on the New York Police Department to act as first responders to City residents with mental illnesses are 5 times higher since 1980, jumping from 20, 843 calls to 100,000 currently. Additionally, the instances where the NYPD has taken people to area hospitals for psychiatric evaluations jumped from 1,000 in 1976 to 24,000 in 1998.

“People living with mental illness (and their families, friends and caregivers) deserve a trained and understanding law enforcement and criminal justice system if they are to be treated fairly and helped to successfully navigate difficult confrontations,” said Phillip A. Saperia, Chief Executive Officer of the New York City-based Coalition of Behavioral Health Agencies that are positioned to help provide treatment alternatives to police involvements.

Religious leaders also embrace the CIT approach. “I know the difference it can make first hand since a recipient of our ACT Team in Binghamton was shot and killed through a misunderstanding involving cultural and language barriers, said Catholic Charities Executive Director Lori A. Accardi, LMSW, representing the NYS Catholic Conference. “From that moment, the mental health community joined with local law enforcement and our District Attorney’s office to create a local Crisis Intervention Team.

“Incorporation of these specially trained first-responders will help ensure that individuals with psychiatric or other disabilities are treated fairly and with respect, results in less unnecessary injuries and arrests, and helps to ensure people receive the services and supports they need” said Lindsay Miller of the Executive Director, New York Association on Independent Living

Professional groups provided strong support for statewide adoption of the CIT program.

Implementation of a specialized policing response in every community across New York State offers our law enforcement officers critical tools to safely handle distressed individuals; preventing unnecessary and more costly incarcerations, ” said Ray Cardona, LCSW, Executive Director, NASW-NYS Chapter.

"The New York State Psychiatric Association supports the allocation of $2M in start-up grants to localities for the implementation of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) programs working in collaboration with local law enforcement agencies,” said Richard Gallo, Government Relations Advocate for the NYS Psychiatric Association.

Using the CIT approach, Philadelphia police officers have been able to capably respond to 90% of those calls and San Francisco has reduced potentially tragic uses of force to 22 out of 16,000 calls.

“CIT training is an evidenced based practice that provides both a safe and compassionate strategy for law enforcement in engaging individuals with psychiatric disabilities in crisis,” said Glenn Liebman, CEO of the Mental Health Association of NYS. “Research has shown that people with mental illness are no more violent than the general populations and trainings like CIT continue to break down that wall of stigma.”