Chief Clinical Officer, Summit County ADM Board & Coordinating Center of Excellence in Jail Diversion, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine

Author:Mark R. Munetz
Position:What Is A Cit? Why Do You Need One In Your Community?

Previously published in For the Record (1st Quarter, 2002), and in various newsletters for judges, state agencies, and service providers. Republished with permission.

Chief Clinical Officer, Summit County ADM Board & Coordinating Center of Excellence in Jail Diversion, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine.

This is the first article in a series about effectively dealing with mentally ill offenders in the criminal justice system. Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Supreme Court of Ohio, has had a longtime interest in developing solutions to this problem and has formed the Supreme Court of Ohio Advisory Committee on Mentally Ill in the Courts for that purpose. The first article addresses effective police interventions in an interview with Dr. Mark Munetz.

Dr. Munetz has been involved in developing a CIT program in Akron. CIT stands for "Crisis Intervention Team," and refers to a collaborative effort between law enforcement and the mental health community to help law enforcement officers handle incidents involving mentally ill people. The Akron program has been in place since May 2000, and has had great success.

Justice Stratton: What is a CIT and how and why did it begin?

Dr. Munetz: The first CIT program began in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1987, 27-year-old Joseph Dewayne Robinson was shot and killed during an incident with the Memphis Police Department. This shooting outraged the community. From this community crisis emerged in 1988 a new way of doing business for both the police and the mental health community in Memphis, based on a collaborative effort designed to help police officers identify and deal with mentally ill people.

Stratton: How did the need for programs such as this one come about?

Munetz: Deinstitutionalization allowed a large proportion of individuals with serious mental disorders to live successfully in their community. Unfortunately, however, a sizable minority of people who in the past would have been treated in state hospitals has instead ended up in nursing homes, homeless shelters, jails, and prisons. A 1998 report from the U. S. Department of Justice estimated the nation's jails and prisons held 283,800 mentally ill inmates, representing 16 percent of state prison inmates, 7 percent of federal inmates and 16 percent of those in local jails. In Ohio, according to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections statistics, in March 2000 there were 6,393 mentally ill prisoners, of whom 3,051 were severely mentally disabled.

Stratton: Those are some staggering statistics. Can you tell us what you have personally observed in your home county?

Munetz: In Summit County, the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board...

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