November 24th, 2016

David Lawrence Center, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) recently celebrated a momentous milestone when the 1,000th graduate of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program was honored along with fellow classmates during a recent graduation ceremony.

The program, which began in 2008, trains deputies to interact with individuals they encounter on the job who show signs of mental illness and other disabilities. The 40-hour training program is offered four times a year and teaches de-escalation techniques. The training has proven to reduce injuries and deaths to police and people with mental illness.

The unique, comprehensive training program is a collaborative effort with NAMI who provides the funding, facility and staff support for the training and as well as David Lawrence Center who also provides the facility and staff support for the training.

“This is a remarkable accomplishment, not just regionally, but nationally,” David Lawrence Center CEO Scott Burgess said. “To achieve such an incredible milestone truly requires not only strong community partnership, but also unwavering commitment by those in law enforcement and government leadership. We are heartened and thrilled to have played a role, along with our colleagues in this success. Working together, CIT is changing and saving lives.”

Sheriff Kevin Rambosk’s goal is to have 100 percent of Collier deputies trained in CIT and this graduation puts the agency one step closer to that goal. Of the 1,000 now trained, more than half are deputies.

“Graduates of this program are now better prepared for the daily rigors of the job,” Sheriff Rambosk said. “CCSO is proud to partner with local organizations to offer such a terrific opportunity for enhancing skill sets.”

Since the program began locally, trained officers have begun recording valuable details about the types of mental illness observed. Those details help the courts to reduce unnecessary jail time by diverting candidates for treatment. And whenever possible, people are diverted from jail into treatment through the Baker and Marchman acts.

Pam Baker, CEO of NAMI, added that the training not only minimizes unnecessary jail admissions, but it also helps to ensure humane treatment of individuals with mental illness.

“Through this collaboration, the Collier County Sheriff’s Office has always ensured that advocates and individuals with mental illnesses are integrally involved in CIT design and implementation,” Baker said. “As a result, we’re able to ensure that as many officers as possible are trained in CIT.”

The graduation ceremony took place at Shula’s Steakhouse in North Naples, where Sheriff Rambosk, Honorable Janeice Martin and other key partners met to celebration with graduates.

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