Crisis Intervention Team Award

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Provided by Prince William County

The Greater Prince William Crisis Intervention Team (GPWCIT) recently received the Virginia CIT Coalition Program of the Year award.

Prince William County and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park police departments, the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office, the Community Services Board and the Prince William County Adult Detention Center comprise the GPWCIT. This team trains police officers to recognize when they are dealing with people living with mental health issues.

“These are all volunteers for greater Prince William,” said Prince William County Police Department Lt. Heather Vance. “As a team, we all come from different agencies to put this training on. They’re all officers and clinicians who care very much about helping our community and helping officers deal with those in crisis.”

The trainers have educated roughly 54 percent of the Prince William County Police Department’s officers, who each received 40 hours of CIT training to become better equipped to deal with sensitive calls. Refresher, advanced and train the trainer courses are also included in the program. The training also helps police officers learn how to actively listen to people and de-escalate a situation rather than using force or detention.

“Informed, educated officers respond to peoples’ homes to provide a level of expertise with people and their families and friends in a of crisis. We come in knowing a little more about mental illness, what crisis looks like, how to de-escalate things safely and come to a cooperative conclusion to the call rather than taking someone into custody for mental health issues. We’re trying to reduce that and increase the number of times we can divert people to other resources.” Vance said.

Officers who have completed CIT training have learned to recognize people in a serious mental health crisis, understand various mental health diagnoses, evaluate behavior, be familiar with medications, know how to verbally de-escalate a situation and use community and regional resources to help those in crisis. CIT responders also recognize when people are living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, and they understand issues facing the LGBTQIA+ community.

“We have a lot of different hours within that 40-hour week dedicated to different types of communities,” Vance said.

The GPWCIT, which the Prince William Board of County Supervisors launched in 2012, initially held two classes a year.

Since 2012, the GPWCIT has held 36 10-hour classes to train more than 900 responders. Trainers also provide eight-hour classes for dispatchers and police and fire and rescue recruits at the Prince William County Public Safety Academy.

In 2020, the police department and the Prince William County Community Services Board added one full-time police department position and one full-time mental health coordinator to the GPWCIT program.

A 2022 federal grant administered through George Mason University provided $1.1 million for the team to hold six classes annually.

Additionally, the GPWCIT assisted the NoVa CIT Coalition with two 40-hour classes in 2022 that provided some of the smaller jurisdictions in the area with coordination, training materials and guest speakers.

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