Crisis Intervention Team officers visit New Reflection
By Ken K. Gourdin
Law Enforcement Strives to Improve Response to Mentally Ill Who Are In Crisis
Author’s Note: This article originally appeared in a recent issue of The Monthly Mirror, the newsletter published by New Reflection House. New Reflection House, also known as Clubhouse or NRH, strives to help adults who have received a psychiatric designation of seriously and persistently mentally ill reintegrate themselves back into the community and into society by providing social, emotional, educational, occupational, and other forms of support. It is known as a psychosocial rehabilitation program. NRH is one of about 340 so-called “Clubhouse Model” programs worldwide.
The Clubhouse Model is but one form of psychosocial rehabilitation (traditional day treatment, in which clients meet daily in structured sessions to talk about their problems and ways to deal with them, being the other main form of this treatment method). For more information regarding the Clubhouse Model, please visit the Web site of the International Center for Clubhouse Development, the umbrella organization for Clubhouses worldwide, at http://www.iccd.org. See also the post on this blog located at the following address, last accessed April 8, 2013: http://www.greatgourdini.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/new-reflection-house/.
NRH is the opposite of the traditional mental health setting. While traditional mental health settings usually are staff-directed, NRH is member-directed with support and guidance as needed from staff members. Unlike traditional mental health programs, NRH participants are neither patients nor clients; rather, they are members. In a Clubhouse setting, unlike in, for example, the more traditional day treatment setting, the focus is not on participants’ problems, or on their illnesses, disabilities, or liabilities. Rather, it is on members’ strengths, talents, and abilities.
NRH is purposely short-staffed to ensure that member involvement is central to (rather than peripheral to) the Clubhouse’s operation. Members, not staff, determine how they will utilize the benefits of the Clubhouse, the staff with whom they will work, and how they will use their talents and abilities to further the Clubhouse’s operation. Members and staff share “bottom-line” responsibility for the Clubhouse’s successful operation equally, and very few distinctions are made between members and staff: staff are neither members’ caregivers nor their superiors; rather, staff and members are equals, working side-by-side to ensure the Clubhouse’s success.
As part of its ongoing dual efforts to educate the public at large regarding mental illness while educating its members about resources available to them to help them integrate successfully into the community and into society, NRH hosts periodic forums to which community organizations are invited to give presentations about the resources they offer. One such forum featured a visit from two Crisis Intervention Team officers from Salt Lake P.D.
Salt Lake Police Detectives Bruno and Frederick visited New Reflection Monday, July 11  to talk about how law enforcement’s response to the mentally ill in crisis is changing. Clubhouse members found the presentation informative and helpful.
At the forefront of the change in law enforcement’s response to mental health crises is a program known as Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT, training. CIT is designed to familiarize officers with mental illnesses and their symptoms, including effects on behavior. Detective Bruno is the CIT Program Director for the state of Utah, and Detective Frederick is the Program Coordinator.
CIT was created as a response to the realization that it doesn’t make sense to take people to jail who need treatment instead, and it also doesn’t make sense to criminalize mental illness—especially since mental illness is so widespread that even if a person himself is never diagnosed with such an illness, there’s a very good chance he has a close family member or friend who will be
Salt Lake County now has 24-hour outreach for mental illness, involving CIT officers, mental health professionals, and peer support specialists. Peer support specialists are trained consumers of mental health services who have learned how to provide support to other people who are in situations similar to the ones the consumers themselves once were in. The detectives are involved in efforts to increase crisis mental health services statewide.
While one Clubhouse member questioned the need for law enforcement to respond to mental health incidents, Detective Bruno pointed out that law enforcement isn’t there to get anyone into trouble. Rather, they’re simply there to ensure the safety of others who respond, such as emergency medical technicians, mental health professionals, and peer support specialists.
CIT officers are regular patrol officers who are specially trained to respond to mental health incidents. The goals of CIT, according to a brochure the officers distributed, are to develop a group of CIT-trained law enforcement officers in all jurisdictions, and to include law enforcement as a partner with mental health services in “increasing a consumer’s personal and social function.”