As Missoula’s Crisis Intervention Team celebrates seven years in service, it will move from the fire department’s watch to the police department, city officials said this week.
In a media release, the city said the program will be a better fit under the police department, given Missoula’s reliance on trained law enforcement officers to respond to calls involving a mental health crisis.
Crisis team leaders said those within the program will be able to better fulfill their mission under the umbrella of the police department, including its law-enforcement data tracking and other operational functions.
“I’m very excited about this next stage, because it will help us get closer to achieving our CIT program goals, give us direct and consistent access to law enforcement and more access to the critical data we need to examine changes to the involvement of people with serious mental illnesses in the criminal justice system,” program director Theresa Williams said.
The CIT program unites law enforcement, mental health professionals, mental health advocates and other community professionals to improve responses to mental health crises.
More than 50 Missoula police officers have received crisis intervention training, according to the city.
“The CIT program has dramatically increased the communication among the Poverello Center, law enforcement and first responders,” said Clair Bopp, shelter manager of the Poverello Center. “Because of CIT training, our agency is better equipped to communicate critical observations and articulate needs when a client is experiencing a mental health crisis, which promotes safety for all of those involved.”
National studies have shown that crisis intervention training improves law enforcement officers’ knowledge about mental illness and reduces officer injuries during mental health calls. It also keeps law enforcement’s focus on crime and saves money, according to studies.