A legislative task force is looking for ways to incentivize and support more Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for law enforcement officers in the state.
The training is a “critical” part of the new diversion program Wyoming is developing to keep low-level offenders with mental illness and substance use disorders out of the criminal justice system, Wyoming Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, said during a Mental Health and Vulnerable Adult Task Force meeting this month.
“As we’ve looked at this diversion model and we look at the mental health issues, this CIT training seems to be an important component of that,” he said. “So (we’re) trying to be a little proactive as we implement this diversion process to make sure that we have the CIT training in place when that gets ready to move forward statewide.”
CIT training already occurs in the state, with up to 18 percent of law enforcement personnel already certified according to a memo from the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission, but Larsen said “it would be nice if we could see that percentage increase.”
The recommended rate for CIT training among law enforcement personnel is 20 to 25 percent, the POST memo states.
CIT training brings law enforcement officials together with community mental health and addiction professionals and advocacy groups to develop “unique” local support systems for people struggling with mental illness and substance abuse, POST director Chris Walsh told the task force this month.
“(It) is absolutely fantastic,” he said. “When you put on a CIT class … it actually includes all of those people and the officers, and the actual caregivers or providers work together and go through scenarios and develop those partnerships.”
It would be “very difficult” to provide that kind of individualized, “community specific” training as part of the statewide POST certification process, Walsh explained, but he noted that “general aspects” of CIT, like community policing and interaction with the mentally ill, are already taught at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy.
The localized, full-scale CIT training courses that currently take place in Wyoming are funded through state agencies like the Wyoming Department of Corrections, which provides CIT training in “high responsive areas,” according to WDOC director Dan Shannon, and the Wyoming Department of Health, which supports CIT training “in limited circumstances,” WDH director Stefan Johansson said.
Some of that WDH funding has gone to the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, which hopes to use the money to “better formulate a statewide organization – a consortium of sorts – to help with that education and implementation of CIT across the state,” WASCOP executive director Allen Thompson said.
“That’s our goal with it,” Thompson told the committee this month. “We are getting there.”
Larsen asked Thompson to provide the task force with more information next month about the ways the state could support the development of that CIT training network.
“Give us an idea of what it would take to make sure that structure is in place so that we can determine if that’s something we could move forward, either through funding or legislation or whatever,” Larsen said.
“What we’re trying to do here is prepare for the long term, (so) trying to maintain a consistent emphasis on CIT training is something I think that we need to try and figure out.”
The next task force meeting is scheduled to take place Sept. 28-29 in Cheyenne.