Susan Onofrio, Community Behavioral Health Liaison, Southern Maryland Community Network, says that “The St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office was recognized for assiduously bringing the Memphis Model Crisis Intervention Team training to the Sheriff’s Office, and for acknowledging the importance of having officers trained in crisis intervention.”
CIT is a national model that helps police officers better serve and interact with their community through understanding and learning about mental illness. CIT training provides law enforcement officers, communications staff and corrections officers with the skills they need to identify those who are exhibiting signs of a mental illness. In addition, police officers are trained in how to de-escalate potentially dangerous conditions involving those in a mental health crisis when responding to calls.
In announcing the award, the Southern Maryland Community Network stated, “All over the country police officers, communications staff, and corrections officers are receiving the skills they need to identify mental illness through Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) training. The CIT model is changing the way law enforcement responds to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.”
In addition to the CIT training, partnering with the CBHL program assists law enforcement in securing proper treatment for those suffering from mental disorders. Onofrio explains that, traditionally, in St. Mary’s County and policing as a whole, the practice was to transport individuals in mental health crisis to jail. Now, the focus is on referral. Deputies can connect those individuals suffering from mental disorders and their families with a Behavioral Health Liaison, who can provide individualized safety planning, referral, and links to the appropriate community resources.
St. Mary's County Sheriff Tim Cameron commented, “The Sheriff’s Office thanks the Southern Maryland Community Network for partnering with us and providing the means for our officers to assess at-risk individuals, to engage them in ways that de-escalate potentially dangerous situations, and to link those individuals and their families with mental health programs and providers. This partnership gives us options in the community, and allows us to respond efficiently and compassionately.” Cameron added, “The deputies involved in CIT have undergone extensive training. We at the Sheriff's Office are very appreciative of this recognition of their hard work and efforts, and are proud to be selected as the recipient of the Southern Maryland Community Network’s Community Partner Award.”
The Sheriff’s Office and the Southern Maryland Community Network will continue their partnership with a mental health component added to the annual Holiday Deployment Operations hosted by the St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies and Behavioral Health Liaisons will be on patrol together and available to assist individuals experiencing a mental health crisis.