The lack of mental health crisis services across the U.S. has resulted in law enforcement officers serving as first responders to most crises. A Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program is an innovative, community-based approach to improve the outcomes of these encounters.

In over 2,700 communities nationwide, CIT programs create connections between law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency services and individuals with mental illness and their families. Through collaborative community partnerships and intensive training, CIT improves communication, identifies mental health resources for those in crisis and ensures officer and community safety.

The Benefits of CIT

Not only can CIT programs bring community leaders together, they can also help keep people with mental illness out of jail and in treatment, on the road to recovery. That’s because diversion programs like CIT reduce arrests of people with mental illness while simultaneously increasing the likelihood that individuals will receive mental health services. CIT programs also:

  • Give police officers more tools to do their job safely and effectively. Research shows that CIT is associated with improved officer attitude and knowledge about mental illness. In Memphis, for example, CIT resulted in an 80% reduction of officer injuries during mental health crisis calls.
  • Keep law enforcement’s focus on crime. Some communities have found that CIT has reduced the time officers spend responding to a mental health call. This puts officers back into the community more quickly.
  • Produce cost savings. It’s difficult to estimate exactly how much diversion programs can save communities. But incarceration is costly compared to community-based treatment. For example in Detroit an inmate with mental illness in jail costs $31,000 a year, while community-based mental health treatment costs only $10,000 a year.

Best Practice Guide

CIT International published “Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Programs: A Best Practice Guide for Transforming Community Responses to Mental Health Crises,” which is the first comprehensive guide for communities to best practices for starting and sustaining CIT programs.

The guide takes a practical approach, providing examples and templates to inspire CIT programs, and worksheets to help facilitate difficult conversations among partners. Each chapter includes a case study from a CIT program, highlighting how communities are implementing CIT in different contexts. For example, Chapter 2: Make a Commitment, describes how rural Malheur County, Oregon, built a strong CIT steering committee, and Chapter 6: Sustain and Grow Your CIT Program, features Ohio’s statewide CIT network.

The guide includes six chapters, along with resources and examples, that guide local mental health advocates, mental health professionals, law enforcement and community leaders through the process of starting and sustaining their CIT programs:

Chapter 1: Learn about Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Programs and Find Allies

Chapter 2: Make a Commitment

Chapter 3: Understand Your Crisis Response System

Chapter 4: Build the Infrastructure for Success

Chapter 5: Plan and Deliver Officer Training

Chapter 6: Sustain and Grow Your CIT Program


The full guide can be downloaded here.