If you saw all the Law Enforcement vehicles from multiple jurisdictions in the area of the Northern Indiana Education Foundation building this week, it was not a SWAT call or hostage situation. As a result of an Indiana Department of Mental Health and Addiction Community Catalyst grant and support from Indiana NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) and the Unity Foundation Power for Good, the first cohort of 25 participants completed the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team C.I.T. training. These officers volunteered and became certified as C.I.T. Officers and earned 40 hours of Law Enforcement Training Board, LETB training hours.

In 2021 a Behavioral Health Task Force was formulated that included LaPorte County Drug Free Partnership Program Director, Micki Webb, Mimi Gardner, HealthLinc Chief Behavioral Health Officer, Allen Grecula, MSW, Northshore Substance Use Director, Tyra Robinson Walker, Indiana University Field Coordinator, and Dan Peck, Swanson Center Executive Director. Through this task force a Crisis Intervention Team evolved that aimed to work collaboratively to disrupt programmatic silos and improve LaPorte County’s crisis response to mental health and substance use crisis.
The C.I.T Advisory Team worked to rethink the responses and services available to people in a mental health or substance use crisis and have spent the past two years working with NAMI Indiana to orchestrate the implementation of the C.I.T training. Program Director, Dr. Micki Webb, credited the CIT Advisory Team and particularly acknowledged the leadership of Sergeant James Lear of the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office who is the LaPorte County CIT Law Enforcement Coordinator, and Katie Jasnieski, the Chief Clinical Officer of the Swanson Center who serves as the LaPorte County CIT Mental Health Coordinator. Although there have been designated crisis response efforts within various organizations, Jasnieski indicated that LaPorte County has attempted to develop a Certified Crisis Intervention Team trained in the evidence-based model for at least 15 years. Webb also recognized MCPD Assistant Chief Marty Corley, and LPPD Assistant Chief Bill Degnegaard for their assistance in securing collaborative commitments from multiple departments and their role and active engagement on the C.I.T Advisory Team.

C.I.T. is an evidence-based program and national credential. While the most visible faces of CIT are CIT officers, it is not just a law enforcement program. CIT is designed to bring mental health professionals, advocates, elected leaders, and others to the table to problem-solve and take responsibility for improving the mental health and substance use crisis response system—so that police and jails are not the default responders and locations. The goals of C.I.T include: improving safety during law enforcement encounters, for everyone involved, increasing connections to effective and timely mental health services for people in mental health or substance use crisis, using law enforcement strategically during crisis and reducing the trauma that people experience during a mental health or substance use crisis; thus, contribute to their long-term recovery. CIT programs work to build crisis response systems where law enforcement plays a supporting role and responds only when the level of danger or criminal activity warrants such a response. CIT programs also work to strengthen locations in the community where community members can walk in and receive the help that they need without contact with the justice system.

The first cohort represent the LaPorte County Sheriff’s Office, Michigan City Police Department, LaPorte Police Department, the Long Beach Police Department and LaPorte County 911 Dispatch and are now part of the multijurisdictional LaPorte County C.I.T. Team.
Webb indicates deaths by suicide in LaPorte County are more than two times the state and national averages, the county experienced 50 overdose deaths in 2022, and virtually everyone has had a friend, family member, or co-worker impacted by mental health or substance use concerns. Over the next two years the intent is to train and certify 120 local law enforcement officers in the 40-hour C.I.T. certification. The next LaPorte County C.I.T cohort training is scheduled for March 13-17th, 2023 and the Catalyst grant supports funding to the law enforcement departments to pay for shift coverage while officers are in training. LaPorte County Drug Free Partnership’s C.I.T. Advisory Team welcomes sponsor support to help with costs not covered or allowed by grant funding. Contact Micki Webb at lpclcc@gmail.com if you, your business, or organization seek to help sponsor or support training efforts and improving our community’s responses to mental health and/or substance use crisis.