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The role of crisis intervention teams

The role of crisis intervention teams

A Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is a specialized group of professionals who respond to mental health crises. They provide immediate on-site intervention, de-escalate volatile situations, and connect individuals with appropriate mental health resources.


When is a CIT necessary?

When a healthcare organization encounters patients who are experiencing acute mental health crises that require specialized response, it is necessary to hire or assemble a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). This team is responsible for responding to mental health emergencies within the facility or community, providing care that exceeds the scope of standard medical care.

The decision to form a team is often driven by increased mental health cases, the complexity of these cases, and the need for specialized skills in crisis de-escalation and intervention. The presence of a CIT in healthcare settings ensures that patients experiencing severe emotional or psychological distress receive immediate, appropriate, and compassionate care.


How are CITs Structured?

A CIT typically comprises diverse professionals, each bringing specific skills and expertise. This includes: 

  • Mental health professionals: These are psychologists, psychiatrists, or licensed clinical social workers skilled in assessing mental health, providing therapeutic interventions, and devising care plans for individuals in crisis. They offer expertise in diagnosing mental health conditions and suggesting appropriate treatment strategies.
  • Law enforcement officers: Specially trained police officers or other law enforcement personnel are integral to CITs. They receive training in handling mental health crises, understanding the nuances of mental illness, and employing de-escalation techniques. Their role is critical in ensuring public safety and managing situations where an individual may pose a risk to themselves or others.
  • Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) or paramedics: These medical professionals provide immediate medical assessment and care. They are trained to recognize and respond to mental health emergencies, ensuring that physical health needs are addressed.
  • Crisis counselors: These counselors are trained in crisis intervention techniques, providing immediate emotional support and counseling to individuals in crisis. They help stabilize the situation and prepare the individual for longer-term treatment.
  • Peer support specialists: Individuals with lived experience of mental health issues can offer unique support and understanding. They can personally connect with individuals in crisis, providing hope and insight into recovery.
  • Case managers or social service representatives: These members assist in connecting individuals with community resources, follow-up care, and support services. They play a critical role in ensuring continuity of care beyond the immediate crisis.

See also: HIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide


Types of crises do these teams handle

  • Suicidal threats or attempts.
  • Instances of severe mental health distress.
  • Situations involving substance abuse crises.
  • Episodes of acute psychosis or hallucinations.
  • Behavioral emergencies due to psychiatric disorders.
  • Individuals exhibiting signs of severe depression or anxiety.
  • Incidents of extreme emotional distress following traumatic events.
  • Confrontations where individuals with mental illness may pose a risk to public safety.
  • Cases of severe agitation or aggression in individuals with mental health issues.
  • Scenarios where individuals are unable to care for themselves due to mental instability.

See also: What is individual crisis intervention?


How Do CITs Interact with Law Enforcement and Other Emergency Services?

CITs collaborate with law enforcement and medical first responders to respond to mental health crises. They work closely with police officers, leveraging their expertise in maintaining public safety while incorporating mental health expertise. CITs also work with medical first responders to address any physical health concerns. This coordinated approach ensures that individuals' mental and physical health needs are addressed effectively.

See also: HIPAA for law enforcement

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