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Missoula's Crisis Intervention Team seeing changes

Theresa Williams
Ben Slater
Posted at 9:27 AM, Feb 25, 2022

MISSOULA — Missoula's Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) is moving to the police department as thousands of calls come in yearly and more police officers receive training.

The move comes with another goal -- finding out how successful this CIT has been and where it needs to improve.

The CIT has changed the outcome of many emergency calls for seven years by connecting people in mental health crises to the specialized resources that can help.

Now, as the CIT changes the way law enforcement approaches crises, the team will see changes of its own.

"It's just a natural progression in working with our police department,” CIT program manager Theresa Williams told MTN News.

The program recently migrated from the Missoula Fire Department’s watch to the Missoula Police Department in a move that will enhance the program’s productivity.

Theresa Williams
Missoula CIT program manager Theresa Williams

"The training itself is really geared toward law enforcement. The program is community-based in working with all of our partners,” Williams noted.

The police department responded to some 60,000 calls last year, compared to the roughly 10,000 calls that the city fire department received.

“We're responding to roughly six times as many calls throughout a year,” said CIT Lead Law Enforcement Officer Ben Slater.

"Then inevitably, we're going to have more interactions with those individuals who are exhibiting that serious mental illness or in crisis," he continued.

More than 50 Missoula police officers have received CIT training.

Ben Slater
Missoula CIT Lead Law Enforcement Officer Ben Slater

“As I look at our roster -- at a minimum -- we have two Crisis Intervention Team officers on every one of our patrol shifts,” Slater said.

But it’s not only the personnel and their interactions with the community that makes this transfer make sense.

Williams now works through MPD, with Slater noting that "she has access to the law enforcement record system, which is substantial.”

Access to data paints a clearer picture of where CIT needs attention and how to better reach its goals.

"We are working to eliminate mental health stigma, to ensure that we've got enough services and support for this population in the first place,” explained Williams.

As CIT settles into its new home in the police department, a newly onboarded data analyst, funded through a grant, will gather CIT-specific data.

Williams calls the need for more data urgent as they perfect the workflow between a system of community partners.

“We're not pushing forward just as a law enforcement agency. We need all of those partners moving forward with us,” Williams concluded.

Learn more about the Missoula Crisis Intervention Team at https://www.ci.missoula.mt.us/2782/About-CIT.