The Federal Law Training Centers (FLETC) Behavioral Science Division (BSD) delivered its first iteration of the new Mental Health Crisis Instructor Training Program (MHCITP). The program teaches law enforcement officers how to identify an individual compromised by a mental health crisis and effectively communicate to bring about a positive outcome.
“According to the National Alliance on Metal Illness (NAMI), approximately 1 in 20 adults in the U.S. will experience a serious mental health crisis this year,” said Assistant Director Kai J. Munshi, FLETC Technical Training Operations Directorate. “NAMI estimates an additional one in six youth aged 12-17 will experience a major depressive episode. There is statistically a high frequency of contact between law enforcement and citizens in mental health crises. The MHCITP teaches various techniques designed to establish rapport, build trust, and safely respond to these critical encounters.”
The first few days of the week-long MHCITP program are dedicated to teaching students how to recognize individuals experiencing different forms of mental illness. BSD instructors then build upon this foundational knowledge to teach science-based communication techniques. The program culminates in practical exercises allowing students to demonstrate their knowledge and skillset competency during realistic scenarios using role players. In addition to performing extensive research, FLETC staff consulted with NAMI and law enforcement agencies across the country to incorporate best practices into the program.
“Many law enforcement agencies have implemented co-responder programs, typically consisting of both officers and mental health clinicians,” said FLETC Instructor Jeremy Turner. “The use of co-response teams often leads to better outcomes with jail being avoided in favor of direct medical intervention.” BSD included a co-response scenario in the MHCITP program to illustrate and reinforce this concept.
“As an advocate of addressing mental health issues, I am very proud of FLETC and the BSD instructors,” said Nora Lott Haynes, Georgia Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Advisory Board, who observed the MHCITP program. “This course will help reduce stigma and improve the lives of the mentally ill in the criminal justice system.”
Twenty-five law enforcement professionals representing 17 different federal, state, and local agencies participated in the program. Pat Strode, Georgia Public Safety Training Center CIT Advocate Coordinator, attended the program and remarked, “The significance of this training cannot be articulated in just a few words. I have no doubt the program will bring value not only to the day-to-day role of federal and local officers in the areas and communities they serve but also in their personal and professional lives.” The program also provides graduates with the qualifications required to instruct other officers within their departments on how to effectively communicate with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.
A component of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, FLETC provides career-long training to law enforcement professionals to help them fulfill their responsibilities safely and proficiently. FLETC also makes training available on a host of topics to state, local, tribal, and territorial law enforcement nationwide. Through strategic partnerships, FLETC prepares the federal law enforcement community to safeguard America’s people, property, and institutions.
FLETC Assistant Director Kai Munshi addresses the Mental Health Crisis Instructor Training Program students attending the inaugural course on Aug. 25, 2022, at FLETC-Glynco. (Photo by Brandon Spragins, OPA)
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