Members of the Warwick Police Officers must be prepared to deal with situations involving a person experiencing mental health issues/crisis and know how to respond to these situations in an appropriate manner. Helping people with mental illnesses and their families obtain services from public agencies, community mental health organizations, hospitals, and related support services have emerged as an essential role for police.

It is estimated that 7-10% of all police calls involve a person in a mental health crisis. There is no denying the high volume of such calls in the City of Warwick and the significant number of reoccurring encounters with people experiencing mental health issues.

Back in 2007 the Warwick Police Department recognized the necessity for a mental illness response policy and training for its officers. The department embarked on a longstanding relationship with our community mental health stakeholders and partners aimed at improving our collective response to people experiencing mental health crisis. This collaborative effort began with the development and presentation of a comprehensive 40 hour Mental Health Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for police officers, described as follows:

The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is an innovative first-responder model of police-based crisis intervention with community, health care, and advocacy partnerships. The CIT Model was first developed in Memphis and has spread throughout the country. It is known as the “Memphis Model.” CIT provides law enforcement-based crisis intervention training for assisting those individuals with a mental illness, and improves the safety of patrol officers, consumers, family members, and citizens within the community. CIT is a program that provides the foundation necessary to promote community and statewide solutions to assist individuals with a mental illness. The CIT Model reduces both stigma and the need for further involvement with the criminal justice system. CIT provides a forum for effective problem solving regarding the interaction between the criminal justice and mental health care system and creates the context for sustainable change. Basic Goals: Improve Officer and Consumer Safety and Redirect Individuals with Mental Illness from the Judicial System to the Health Care System

Source: Crisis Intervention Team Core Elements, the University of Memphis School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice
CIT Center1 September, 2007.

A subset of volunteer WPD officers completed this first of its kind training in Rhode Island. Since the introductory session, several other officers have been trained in subsequent Mental Health Crisis Response Team (MHCRT) programs, administered by the Rhode Island Council for Community Mental Health Organizations and certified by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals. Officers assigned to the MHCRT have completed and continuously pursue training session associated with mental health. The knowledge, skills, and abilities these officers have gained from this specialized response training is routinely applied when interacting with the public, be it someone’s neighbors, friends, family members, and co-workers dealing with a mental health issue/crisis.

In addition to establishing the MHCRT, a department Mental Health Officer (MHO) position was created. The MHO acts as a liaison with our community mental health stakeholders and partners, coordinates the MHCRT efforts to include: training, meetings, case activity, and inter-agency related activities.