Law enforcement officials attend crisis intervention conference

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COLUMBIA - More than 500 different law enforcement officials, behavioral health providers and local community members attended the second annual Missouri Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Conference held at the Holiday Inn Expo Center. 

 The purpose is to bring together law enforcement and behavioral health providers to help improve their response to people in crisis situations with mental health disorders.

"All of those folks are coming together to say 'we need to work better together, we need to learn how to help each other' because our law enforcement community really is, in a lot of cases, the front line of dealing with individuals in crisis from a mental health issue," said Brent McGinty of the Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Health Care.

This conference is designed to lay the groundwork for potential CIT councils in police departments.

"We're working on trying to establish a CIT council for Sedalia and Pettis County," said Pettis County sheriff Kevin Bond. "My approach is going to be to ensure my officers, my deputies, and the people that work for me are adequately trained to handle citizen complaints when they come out."

For police departments with existing CIT councils, officers are learning new ways to deal with crisis situations.

Boone County Sgt. Tracey Cleeton said, "We have a virtual crisis iPad which allows someone to Skype with a mental health professional, which is a great idea if we can facilitate that."

McGinty said he hopes the conference will continue a partnership between law enforcement and the Missouri CIT. 

"The law enforcement community has been wonderful to work with," he said. "Learning is going to position Missouri as a leader on helping our law enforcement deal with these issues in their community."