MISSOULA, MONTANA – After seven years, the Missoula Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is transitioning from the Missoula Fire Department to the Missoula Police Department.
According to CIT program director Theresa Williams, they will be relocating inside the police headquarters and reporting directly to Missoula Police Chief Jaeson White.
The Crisis Intervention Team strives to keep persons with behavioral health issues out of the criminal justice system.
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According to Williams, the adjustment will provide the squad with additional alternatives while maintaining and increasing training for officers who confront persons in mental health crises.
“I’m extremely thrilled about this next level,” Williams said in a press release. “Because it will help us come closer to accomplishing our CIT program objectives, allow us direct and consistent access to law enforcement, and give us better access to the essential data we need to evaluate changes in the participation of persons with major mental disorders in the criminal justice system.”
According to Williams, the shift will result in more direct engagement from police department leadership and more access to law enforcement data monitoring and other operational duties.
According to a press release, nationwide studies have demonstrated that CIT improves law enforcement officers’ understanding of mental illness, minimizes officer injuries during mental health calls, keeps law enforcement focused on crime, and saves money.
Missoula’s program recently hired three graduate-level social work students to connect persons with mental illness with treatment. The program has also been extended to include a data analyst who will collaborate with stakeholders and suppliers to support data-driven choices.
“The CIT program has significantly boosted communication among the Poverello Center, law enforcement, and first responders,” said Clair Bopp, shelter manager at the Poverello Center. “Because of CIT training, our agency is more ready to express important observations and define requirements when a client is facing a mental health crisis, which enhances safety for all parties involved.”