BALTIMORE — Behavioral Health System Baltimore (BHSB) and the Baltimore City Police Department are launching a specialized Crisis Response Team (CRT) to improve police responses to individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis. The CRT is an expansion of Baltimore’s Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program, a nationally recognized model for reducing unnecessary hospitalizations, improving access to community-based care and improving public safety.
Police are often the first responders on the scene of a behavioral health crisis. How police understand and respond to a mental health, alcohol, or drug related crisis can have life-or-death consequences. The CIT equips officers to respond to individuals with behavioral health disorders in a way that reduces unnecessary incarceration and unnecessary use of inpatient hospitalizations and/or emergency departments. After the initial intervention, officers help connect individuals with resources and community-based care options. The CIT model aims to keep people with mental illness out of jail and get them into treatment, where they are more likely to have better outcomes on their road to recovery.
“The CIT model gives the Baltimore City Police Department resources to respond in an effective and compassionate manner to people experiencing a behavioral health crisis,” said Crista M. Taylor, President and CEO of BHSB. “A goal of the program is to better serve residents by connecting them with community-based care.”
The CIT program, formerly known as BEST (Behavioral Emergency Services Team), has provided a crisis intervention, training program for all new recruits at the police academy since 2004. The CIT training gives officers the knowledge and ability to reduce the stigmatization of persons with mental illness, reduce unnecessary use of force, incarceration and hospitalization and link individuals to resources in the community.