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In 2003, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office began training a number of deputies in crisis intervention skills to provide better services to mentally ill people in our community. About five percent of Americans suffer from a serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). Many more have milder diagnoses or experience suicidal thoughts.
Due to the nature of some of these illnesses, mentally ill citizens may be more likely to have contact with police. Law enforcement's philosophical approach to crises involving the mentally ill has changed. Today, more deputies are able to identify characteristics of mental illness, they can skillfully intervene in a crisis and they possess resources to help the person in question.
The crisis intervention program has educated thousands of officers throughout Colorado, including more than 150 in the sheriff's office. The program selectively recruits officers for the intense, 40-hour training course, which involves expert lecturers, role-playing scenarios with actors and visits to local mental-health facilities. Once certified in crisis intervention, deputies are labeled CITs (crisis intervention Team). CIT deputies wear a pin (pictured above) on their uniforms.
Today, a CIT-trained deputy will respond to most incidents involving mental health issues or suicide attempts in Jefferson County. Of course, a deputy isn't a doctor. But the more education a deputy has in assessing and defusing a crisis, the better.
Here are two organizations that can help citizens with questions or problems related to mental health:
100 Jefferson County Parkway Golden, Colorado 80419 (303) 279-6511
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