Crisis Intervention Team training on the rise in Sedgwick County

Sedgwick County Crisis Intervention Team
Sedgwick County Crisis Intervention Team

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Law enforcement officers from across the Sedgwick County area are gathering in Wichita to complete Crisis Intervention Team, CIT, training. This is the 11th basic CIT class. Previously to date, there have been two Sedgwick Co. Dentention-specific classes.

According to the Sedgwick County Crisis Intervention Team,

CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) is a police-training program created in 1988 in Memphis, Tennessee. It was originally a partnership between the Memphis Police, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, hospitals, and universities after a police shooting of a mentally ill man.

KSN’s Brittany Glas sat in on Mental Health First Aid training Tuesday, as part of the week’s Crisis Intervention Team. She spoke with both first-time students and instructors to learn more about why local law enforcement is increasingly focused on obtaining this training.

Officer Dominic Artis with the Wichita Police Department talks with KSN's Brittany Glas about Mental Health First Aid.
Officer Dominic Artis with the Wichita Police Department talks with KSN’s Brittany Glas about Mental Health First Aid.

Instructors told Brittany that one of the largest contributing factors is how common mental health problems have become.

“How often do you think you come across somebody who might have a diagnosable mental illness?”

That was the question an instructor posed to the class Tuesday. In unison they responded, “Everyday.” 

In fact, nationwide, approximately 7 percent of police contact involves a person with mental illness. Further, anywhere from 10 – 15 percent of incarcerated individuals have a mental illness.

It’s statistics like these, instructors say, that make CIT training so important, even in Sedgwick County.

“[CIT training] gives us that one more tool that we can utilize to deescalate a situation to be able to communicate effectively,” said Deputy Ben Romero, with the Sedgwick Co. Sheriff’s Office.

Mental health instructor Tom Pletcher said this is about physical and mental health.

“Mental health conditions can be just as, if not more so, disabling as very serious [physical] health conditions,” explained Tom Pletcher, a clinician and mental health instructor for the course. “Severe depression is more disabling than severe vision loss.”

Currently, more than 400 officers from the Sedgwick Co. Sheriff’s Office, the Wichita Police Department, the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC), and other local law enforcement agencies are CIT-trained.

In Kansas, there are five different entities that conduct Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Training. They are:

  1. Wichita/Sedgwick County CIT
  2. Hutchinson/Reno County CIT
  3. Topeka/Shawnee County CIT
  4. Emporia/Lyon County CIT, and
  5. Johnson County CIT.

“We all have, you know, our mental health issues,” said Wichita Police Officer Dominic Artis, who teaches Mental Health First Aid for WPD. “Some may be more severe than others, and we have to keep that in perspective.”

Approach, Officer Artis adds, is also key to handling this situation.

“Talk to them with patience because it’s not easy for them, obviously,” said Artis. “So, we just have to keep that in perspective and know that they’re going through something right now, and just give them a little time to respond to our questions.”

For more information about the Sedgwick County Crisis Intervention Team, click here: CIT Brochure 2016.

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