The Evolution of the Northeast Delta Crisis Intervention Team (CIT)

The Northeast Delta Crisis Intervention Team is a collaborative effort between law enforcement, mental health professionals, consumers, family members, advocates, and community members. Team members are dedicated to assisting persons with a mental illness. Team members emphasize safety for consumers, for the community, and for law enforcement.

Originally, the roots of CIT began in 1987 in Memphis, Tennessee. This city had a critical incident involving police and a person with a mental illness. The armed person with a mental illness was killed by police during a confrontation. From this incident, the Memphis Police Department and the local chapter of the association for the mentally ill, now known as NAMI, began a collaborative effort to train and provide better services for consumers and for the police who are often the first responders to consumers who are in crisis. The Memphis CIT program has now spread from state to state and has gone from a nation wide program to a world wide program to include Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and England among others.

Locally, the initiative to begin a CIT related program in this region began in 2003. At that time, law enforcement began analyzing their resources and options when responding to a call with a person with a mental illness crisis. At the same time mental health advocates and professionals began analyzing their resources and ways to improve services for consumers in Ouachita Parish. These efforts were not integrated together until a tragic incident occurred in 2004.

In 2004 in Ouachita Parish, there was an attack on local law enforcement by an armed person with a mental illness. The officers were forced to take action to protect themselves and the community. Unfortunately, this action resulted in the death of the person with the mental illness. Public concerns and a renewed look at law enforcement and local mental health services brought this issue to the forefront. This emphasized the ongoing problem of the lack of proper services for consumers with a mental illness in the North Delta region.

During this same time period, incidents in New Orleans and Lake Charles led to the shooting deaths of two more persons with mental illnesses during deadly force confrontations with police. In both situations, the police were forced by the actions of the persons with a mental illness to protect themselves and the community.

In 2004, 9 law enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty in the state of Louisiana. Of these officers killed, 6 officers were killed by subjects with a mental illness. In comparison, in 2004, there were 3 persons with a mental illness killed by police during confrontations in this state. At the current rate, officers are being killed at a rate of 2 to1 by persons with a mental illness. The Northeast Delta CIT members recognize and emphasize the safety of law enforcement as well as the safety of persons with a mental illness.

Out of these incidents, real collaboration began among all of the stakeholders. The Advisory Council for the Region VIII Office of Mental Health sponsored a meeting and invited Major Sam Cochran of the Memphis Police Department and Dr. Ralph Dupont, University of Tennessee at Memphis to discuss the highly successful Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program being used in Memphis. More than 200 people attended this meeting which led to the formation of the Region VIII Mental Health Community Response Task Force.

The Task Force consisted of law enforcement officers, consumers, family members, community members, professionals, mental health care providers, judges, and advocates. On May 24, 2006, a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed by elected and appointed officials in Ouachita Parish including mayors, judges, mental health professionals, and law enforcement leaders. This Memorandum documented the commitments and the collaboration of the entire community.

At this point, the Northeast Delta CIT program was born. Local instructors participated in the Train the Trainer program in Memphis. As a result, our program is based on the Memphis Model but it has been designed specifically for our region and our resources.

SPEAKER REQUEST Please contact us if you are in need of a speaker for your civic group or organization. We will be more than happy to speak to your group about Crisis Intervention Team Training, the Northeast Delta CIT, and mental illness awareness and education. We will tailor the program to your needs and available time. You may contact us by phone or by email on our contact page.