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Commission on Crime and Delinquency Spotlights Centre County Crisis Intervention Team as Model Program for Diversion, Recognizes 16 New Training Graduates

06/28/2024

Centre, PA - The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) joined the Centre County’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) to recognize the 16 individuals who successfully completed a week-long CIT training. The goal of the CIT program is to increase first responder and community safety while decreasing the number of arrests by diverting individuals who are in crisis away from the criminal justice system toward appropriate treatment and resources.

“When an individual is experiencing a mental health crisis, it’s critical that the first responders— whether that be law enforcement, emergency dispatchers, or others— have the tools and skills to effectively communicate with and direct individuals to the appropriate services in the community which meets their needs,” said PCCD Executive Director Mike Pennington. “The Centre County CIT program is an example of a community working together to support the behavioral health of its citizens. These programs can truly make a difference in the life of someone experiencing a crisis. PCCD is proud to be a partner in the expansion of CIT across the Commonwealth.”

CIT is a collaboration of local law enforcement personnel, first responders, correctional facility personnel, probation and parole officers, mental health professionals, and advocates who work collectively to assist individuals who are experiencing a mental health crisis. PCCD has invested nearly $1 million to date on the implementation and expansion of CIT programs across the state.

“The importance of first responders receiving the 40-hour CIT training is to help them have a better understanding of mental illness, verbal de-escalation techniques, and local community resources,” said Tracy Small, Centre County Certified Crisis Intervention Team Coordinator. “The trainings help first responders understand that local community resources are available to assist with getting a person in crisis the right help and treatment. Additionally, CIT helps improve safety for a person in crisis, as well as the first responder, and improves relationships between law enforcement and the community.”

The 40-hour CIT training program teaches skills and tactics to safely de-escalate incidents involving persons in crisis. Upon completion of the training, officers are able to more safely and compassionately respond to and manage mental health crises. When completing the training, officers and first responders receive a pin which they wear on their uniform so they can be easily identified as a CIT-trained officer.

“As a previous CIT graduate, I greatly appreciate the information, skills, and strategies provided in the training. Participants in the program receive a general awareness of mental health diagnosis, substance abuse issues, and social issues that can impact Law Enforcement interaction and of the resources in Centre County that are available to assist those experiencing crisis,” said Officer Jason Crants, Penn State University Police and Public Safety, and January 2019 CIT graduate. “I use these skills every day on the job. Having these tools available has been important in my law enforcement career, as it has made me aware of options and alternatives to bring a crisis situation to a positive outcome. The skills I have learned in the CIT program have given me greater confidence when performing my duties, as I am able to connect persons in crisis with the appropriate resources and I am able to reduce the stress and anxiety experienced by persons in crisis using active listening and de-escalation techniques. Since graduating the program I have taken a role with the CIT Steering Committee. I enjoy watching the program evolve as we learn from current events in law enforcement, develop new social service programs within the county, and gain new knowledge within the mental health field.”

The Centre County CIT was one of the first programs of its kind in the state and has earned a reputation as a robust program which serves as a model for other jurisdictions since its establishment in 2010 through an investment by PCCD. PCCD funding provided resources for Centre County to hire a CIT Coordinator in 2011, who serves as the point of contact across local law enforcement agencies, criminal justice personnel, and behavioral health professionals. Since inception of the Centre County CIT Program, 464 first responders, law enforcement officers and other professionals have received training.

To connect other jurisdictions interested in or already implementing CIT, PCCD is partnering with the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) and Centre County CIT to host a free Statewide CIT Symposium on September 25th in State College. This one-day event will feature informative sessions from nationally known presenters, including Major Sam Cochran (Ret.), known for his work developing the Memphis CIT Model and Dr. Tom Kirchberg, a clinical psychologist who trains first responders in the art of diffusing potentially dangerous situations. The Symposium will also feature Ernest Stevens, who served with the San Antonio Police Department for 26 years where he was a founding member of the Mental Health Unit.  Ernie was featured on the Emmy Award winning HBO documentary, “Ernie and Joe: Crisis Cops.” Registration for the Symposium will open in July. Upcoming information will be available on the PCCD website.


MEDIA CONTACT: Ali Gantz - algantz@pa.gov


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