The first Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) model was developed in 1988 in Memphis, Tennessee, as a partnership between the police department, advocacy groups for people with mental illness, mental health providers, and other community stakeholders. The goals of CIT were to train law enforcement officers in the recognition of mental illness, to enhance their verbal crisis de-escalation skills, and to provide more streamlined access to community-based mental health services. The Memphis community soon realized the benefits of this advanced course of training through dramatic declines in injury rates among both citizens and police officers, decreased utilization of the SWAT team to resolve crisis situations and — when appropriate — the diversion of people with mental illness from incarceration to community-based mental health services.
When the CIT model was replicated in other large urban areas across the western United States, including Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; San Jose, California; and Albuquerque, New Mexico; those communities experienced similar positive outcomes.
The CIT model has since spread to many areas of the country. In 2002, the Colorado Regional Community Policing Institute (CRCPI), a branch of the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, launched the state’s first CIT trainings in Jefferson County and Denver. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office joined this effort in 2003, partnering with the state, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, the Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network, and a host of municipal law enforcement agencies throughout the two counties to form the Arapahoe-Douglas CIT Training Region.
Today, CIT-certified officers make up roughly one-third of the commissioned staff in all divisions of the Sheriff’s Office. The Arapahoe/Douglas Mental Health Network, which is the community mental health center serving all of Arapahoe and Douglas counties except the City of Aurora, works in tandem with our CIT officers through its CIT Case Management Program, which connects people who have been contacted by CIT officers with appropriate mental health services.
The number of formal CIT interventions conducted by Douglas County Sheriff’s Office personnel has increased significantly since the program’s inception. The number of CIT interventions by year (as of the last available reporting period) are:
The Sheriff’s Office has also joined a large number of government agencies and community stakeholders to address mental health-related issues such as the creation of the 18th Judicial District’s first mental health court, studying ways to reduce the costs of providing mental health treatment in county jails by identifying deferral options at key intercept points within the law enforcement / mental health interface, and improving suicide prevention initiatives in the public schools.
By remaining an active partner in addressing these important issues, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office hopes to positively impact peoples’ lives in all facets of our community.