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What is a crisis
intervention team
and how technology
can help

Author: Phil Muncaster

Crisis intervention teams (CITs) are typically community resources designed to provide mental health experts to help assess, manage and triage situations involving individuals with mental illnesses.  Mental illnesses are defined as health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior that are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social activities. It is considered a medical condition, just like heart disease or diabetes, and according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), research shows that mental illnesses are common in the United States, affecting tens of millions of people each year. 

Mental health illness is often misunderstood

Per the American Psychiatric Association, mental illness is common; it does not discriminate; it can affect anyone regardless of your age, gender, geography, income, social status, race/ethnicity, religion/spirituality, sexual orientation, background or other aspect of cultural identity.  The percentage of adults with a mental illness who have untreated needs has increased every year since 2011. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has found that the lack of mental health crisis services across the U.S. has resulted in law enforcement officers serving as first responders to most crises.  As a result, more and more cities are pairing mental health professionals with law enforcement. 

Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT)

A crisis intervention team, also referred to as a mobile crisis unit, is an innovative approach utilizing community resources to help improve the outcomes of these encounters by pairing first responders with mental health experts.  Crisis intervention teams are often called upon by emergency rooms, nursing homes, police and other emergency services (EMS), and they offer:

  • Crisis screening
  • Intervention
  • De-escalation services
  • Referral to community resources

Some teams are composed of both mental health professionals and specially trained police officers who are equipped to handle potentially high-stress situations safely and professionally. Available 24/7, they sometimes also offer a language service line to help interpret for non-native English speakers.

These crisis intervention teams or mobile crisis units are composed of skilled mental health professionals that can be called upon or called in to be deployed to help de-escalate crisis situations – but to do so, they need responsible, reliable technology solutions. 

What technology solutions do crisis intervention teams need?

Emergency responders, including those in mobile crisis units, need robust networks and devices, reliable connectivity and protection from cyber threats.

Here's a quick roundup of the features that could best support your mobile crisis response teams as they collaborate with EMS responders, individuals in crisis and their family members:

  • Push-to-talk (PTT) capabilities, which help save mobile crisis response teams critical response time otherwise spent dialing
  • Mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) capabilities, which can provide a lower-cost alternative to Land Mobile Radio (LMR) networks and allow mobile crisis response teams to communicate with an extended group of first responders
  • Support for video streaming and text to enhance crisis responder productivity
  • Reliable 4G or 5G networks from a trusted provider
  • Virtual map software to help cut response times
  • Mobile device management and threat defense solutions

Mobile Crisis intervention services

Increased funding and grants were recently made available by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services (CMS) to help integrate community-based mobile crisis intervention services.

Crisis response teams are operating across the country and many state governments' websites contain information about their mobile crisis response teams—a testament to the value this approach is having on community resources. NAMI research shows that CIT is associated with improved officer attitude and knowledge about mental illness. In Memphis, for example, CIT resulted in an 80% reduction of officer injuries during mental health crisis calls.

Discover how Verizon technology helped Harris County's crisis response team.

  • FAQ

What does a crisis center do? +

A crisis center serves the community and supports police and EMS with emergency mental health evaluations and triage.

What are the benefits of a mental health crisis intervention team? +

A crisis intervention team can help de-escalate high stress situations and improve the quality of care for individuals in psychiatric crisis.

What technologies can help? +

Valuable technologies include reliable 4G LTE/5G networks, device management and security, mission-critical push-to-talk (MCPTT) capabilities and videoconferencing technology.