Recently I had the unique experience of participating in the Heartland Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training with the Omaha Police Department, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department, and several other area law enforcement agencies. The commitment, compassion, and eagerness to improve their skills that these men and women showed throughout the week is commendable. Each officer volunteered to go through this 40-hour training and received a certification upon completion of the course.
CIT training began in Omaha in 2006 and has continued to expand through the years. Currently, there are two graduating classes each calendar year. This training enhances law enforcement’s response toward individuals who are experiencing mental health issues. It helps them recognize common forms of mental illness and also teaches them to utilize the most effective means of communicating with people experiencing a crisis.
Through classroom learning, consumer and family panels, role-playing in scenarios and simulation exercises, officers are trained to deescalate an individual in crisis, and have a better understanding of what the individual is experiencing as their crisis unfolds. Being able to participate in this training caused me to form a deeper appreciation for both what the officers experience on a daily basis, as well as the strong impact mental health issues have on an individual’s entire life.
Another component of the training was a day of site visits to treatment facilities in the Omaha area. Each of the facilities my group visited went out of their way to open their doors to us, allow us to visit with consumers, patients, and clients to better understand their experience with law enforcement, and let the officers know the best practices that create a strong collaboration between these entities and law enforcement in order to best serve individuals with mental health issues.
CIT training is a crucial step in strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and the individuals they serve in their communities. These trained officers can now more effectively respond to incidents involving individuals in crisis, and better serve them by having a stronger understanding of what they are experiencing and what treatments are available to them. The officers who volunteered for this training are now more equipped to serve those in crisis, as their compassion, knowledge, and training have come together to enhance their experience as an officer.
About Julia Hebenstreit, Administrative Director, The Kim Foundation
Julia has a B.S. in Journalism (PR/Advertising) from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and a J.D. from Creighton University. She has served as Vice President of the Nebraska Chapter of Grant Professionals Association since 2008, is part of the Women’s Fund Circle, is a member of the Omaha Chamber’s Young Professionals group, is a member of St. Cecilia’s Women’s Guild, and is a Goal Buddy for Partnership for Our Kids. Julia joined The Kim Foundation as Administrative Director in December 2011.