Last week, I joined the Clarkstown police, the Rockland County Sheriff’s Office, Supervisor George Hoehmann, and mental health advocates at the Clarkstown Police Department to talk about the importance of funding in the New York State Budget for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT).
CIT is critical training for officers that teaches them how to de-escalate situations with people suffering from mental illness. Officers learn active listening skills, how to empathize and build a rapport with a person, and how to better recognize mental illness. I am currently fighting for $1.5 million to be allocated in the State’s budget each year to implement and expand CIT training across New York because it will save lives.
We know one in five people suffers from mental illness and about 10 percent of police calls involve a person with mental illness. In Clarkstown, the police department said the calls to a mental health crisis have nearly doubled in the last year. Sometimes officers are the first responders in a mental health crisis, and it’s important they are able to help people get the treatment they need instead of taking them to jail.
According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI), 2 million people with mental illness are booked into jails each year. NAMI also cites nearly 15 percent of men and 30 percent of women booked into jails have a serious mental health condition. Jails are not designed to help treat mental illness so with CIT we will stop over-crowding are jails and get people referred to the services they really need.
In addition, CIT training often reduces the risk of fatal injury to both the officer and mentally ill person. When CIT was implemented in Memphis, Tennessee for example, there was an 80 percent reduction of officer injuries during mental health crisis calls, according to NAMI.
This is not the time to defund mental health in New York, and we must increase funding in the state budget for Crisis Intervention Training.