Column: Advanced training helps HPD assist mentally ill individuals
People with mental illnesses and law enforcement are increasingly coming in closer contact with each other, making the collaboration of police and mental health advocates an important need.
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People with mental illnesses and law enforcement are increasingly coming in closer contact with each other, making the collaboration of police and mental health advocates an important need. In Hawaii, this need is being met by a new program called the Crisis Intervention Team. CIT is a partnership among the Honolulu Police Department, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Hawaii (NAMI Hawaii) and the Hawaii Health and Harm Reduction Center, among other community partners. Our mission is to improve police response to individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis. We also seek to involve hospitals, judges, doctors and providers to expand services for those in need.
Mental health crises come in varying degrees. This program is designed to help those who are in crisis, but may not meet the legal requirements for involuntary treatment and intervention.
It improves a police officer’s ability to safely intervene during a crisis, link individuals to mental health services and divert them from the criminal justice system when appropriate.
CIT saves lives by teaching police how to best interact with and assist individuals with mental illness, improving the safety of all involved. An officer trained in CIT will have the tools needed to get those in a crisis connected to mental health treatment, where services are cheaper and more effective than jail or prison.
Through the efforts of Honolulu police psychologist Dr. Alicia Rodriguez, the Federal Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded a grant in May 2018 to the Honolulu Police Department, making it one of only four municipalities nationwide to receive one. The grant allowed national experts to come to Hawaii to train police, representatives from NAMI Hawaii and others locally so that now and in the future, it will not be necessary to have assistance from mainland officials, making this a truly locally sustainable effort. In more than 3,000 communities nationwide, CIT programs create connections among law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency services and individuals with mental illness and their families.
NAMI Hawaii coordinates police training, shares personal stories in order to provide insights and hope with officers, and honors them for their work. NAMI Hawaii also works to bring awareness to families affected by mental illness about the availability of CIT officers and their ability to assist them, should the need arise.
In August 2019, NAMI Hawaii gave its first independent 40-hour CIT police training to HPD officers. Presently, there are a total of 58 officers who have completed the program. The program’s goal is to have three 40-hour trainings per year while at the same time bringing in neighbor island police departments so that they too have an opportunity to develop CIT as a locally led community team.
For nearly 40 years, NAMI Hawaii has been working tirelessly to improve the lives of Hawaii families affected by mental illness. This work continues today through programs like CIT and the many others that we provide to the community free of charge. While we offer our services for free there is still a cost to provide them. That is why people gather each year to raise funds and awareness for mental health at the annual NAMIWalks event. This is NAMI Hawaii’s signature fundraising event and is one of the only things that allows it to operate year-to-year. We encourage readers to get involved by donating to this worthwhile cause or by walking with us on Saturday. More information can be found at www.namihawaii.org.
Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard and Lt. Gov. Josh Green are the honorary chairs for the 2019 NAMI Hawaii Walk. Mike Durant is president of NAMI Hawaii.