The following press release is courtesy of the offices of U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse.
July 11, 2022
Contact: Chip Unruh (Reed), (202) 224-4642
Meaghan McCabe (Whitehouse), (401) 453-5294
West Warwick, RI – U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse [on July 11] joined representatives of Thundermist Health Center and local law enforcement officials to announce $1.2 million in federal funding to support crisis intervention team (CIT) training for police departments across Rhode Island. The event took place at the West Warwick Youth Center, which is run by the West Warwick Police Department.
“Police officers have a tough job that requires good judgment and critical thinking. Just like we equip and train them with first aid, firearms, and emergency vehicle operations, we also need to ensure they have the right tools and training for effective, life-saving crisis intervention and de-escalation. This federal funding helps forge a strong partnership between our police, mental health experts, and health care providers. The result is a safer community and better outcomes for people experiencing mental health crises who can be redirected away from the criminal justice system and toward mental health services,” said Senator Reed.
“Police officers are the first people there at the most difficult moments in people’s lives,” said Senator Whitehouse, a former U.S. Attorney and Rhode Island Attorney General. Whitehouse authored the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which is the primary law guiding the federal response to the opioid epidemic. “Crisis intervention and de-escalation training helps officers do their jobs safely and effectively, and results in better outcomes for people dealing with mental health or addiction issues, which benefit more from treatment than incarceration. We are very pleased to significantly expand a partnership that has already been working well for local police departments and the communities they serve.”
About 60 percent of local police departments in Rhode Island have already sent an officer to CIT training through Thundermist’s program. As part of the expansion, Thundermist, in partnership with the Rhode Island Police Chief’s Association, will equip local police departments with the tools to divert people in crisis away from the justice system and connect them with the mental and behavioral health resources they need. Thundermist will also help create workflows for 911 and local dispatchers to ensure CIT-trained officers and, if appropriate, an embedded police clinician are sent to calls on an as-needed basis.
“Advocates, in partnership with law enforcement and behavioral health leaders have been working for decades to bring the gold standard in law enforcement crisis response, the Memphis Model Crisis Intervention Team program to Rhode Island. CIT has 30 years of research proving it improves outcomes for people experiencing a behavioral health crisis. CIT increases diversion to treatment and recovery, reduces use of force, and improves officer wellness and safety. We are so grateful to Senator Reed and Senator Whitehouse for their longstanding support of this effort. Thundermist is proud to support this work. We recognize, as a community health center, that health is determined by community outcomes as well as high quality healthcare. CIT will improve the health and mental health outcomes in the communities we serve and beyond,” said Susan Jacobsen, senior director of health equity initiatives, Thundermist Health Center.
“We are at a point in time that we rely on our law enforcement officers to provide services to our communities like never before, and none of those services are more important than when an individual or a family finds themselves in a behavioral health crisis. We know our officers are not trained to make medical evaluations, but they are most often the first responders to provide assistance. We have worked with Thundermist to provide training to not just our officers but also dispatchers in the Memphis Model Crisis Intervention Team program and believe teaming those officers with embedded clinicians helps to provide a safer and more effective outcomes for those in need as well as to those responding. The Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association applauds the efforts of Senators Reed and Whitehouse for their continued support in this area. These federal funds will expand our ability to train more officers and supporting personnel,” said Sidney Wordell, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association.
The initiative will include 24 training academies over four years, including specialized academies on communicating with youth about mental health and dealing with trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in first responders. The expansion will launch in the fall.