Crisis Intervention Teams Adapted to Correctional Populations

Article excerpt

In fiscal year 2009, the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) identified 38,222 individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) who were receiving ODMHSAS-funded mental health services in the state. The Oklahoma Department of Health, in its 2008 State of the State's Health Report indicated that 8.4 percent of adults have suffered at least one major depressive episode and 13.3 percent have serious psychological distress, ranking Oklahoma among the most mentally unhealthy states in the U.S.

At the end of fiscal year 2009, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) was incarcerating 6,276 offenders who were classified as seriously mentally ill. This accounted for 25.82 percent of the incarcerated population. During this time, there were 30,479 individuals who were under community-based correctional supervision. Based on the prevalence of psychological distress in the general population, there would be more than 4,000 mentally ill offenders under community supervision. If the percentages reflecting the incarcerated population held, there would be nearly 8,000 community offenders suffering from mental illness. Any of these scenarios would substantiate the fact that probation and parole officers frequently face the challenges of interacting with offenders with mental illness.

The Corrections Crisis Resolution Training

In response to the need for the development of specialized skill sets to successfully interact and manage these offenders, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections joined with various partners in the development of the corrections crisis resolution training (CCRT) in July 2009. This training program is an adaptation of the original crisis intervention team (CIT) training program developed by the Memphis, Tenn., Police Department. The program is designed to improve the outcomes of correctional officers' and probation and parole officers' interactions with people in crisis who also have mental illness.

This model of crisis intervention training is used by law enforcement agencies in communities across the nation and has now been modified for use with criminal justice populations. The Oklahoma project is a joint partnership between ODMHSAS, the Oklahoma City Police Department, the Midwest City Police Department, National Alliance of Mental Illness-Oklahoma, and numerous consumers and community mental health providers.

ODOC's venture into CIT was the result of a search for crisis de-escalation training to meet the needs of staff who were not experienced in working with mentally ill offenders. Although there was a great deal of information relating to agencies that had implemented training programs that targeted intervening with individuals in crisis situations, there were no specific training programs focused on correctional populations. After careful review, it was determined that the CIT training program could be modified to target the training needs of correctional staff, both inside the facilities and out on the streets. …