Update on NAMI GLAC’s Partnership with District Attorney’s Office & Training for Law Enforcement
In early 2015, District Attorney Jackie Lacey convened meetings of the entire criminal justice, first responder, and mental health systems of the County of Los Angeles. The purpose of these initial meetings was to acknowledge the need for reform and develop a plan to change the way our criminal justice system interacted with justice-involved individuals with serious mental illness including those with co-occurring substance use disorders. The intersection of the criminal justice and mental health systems in Los Angeles County needed to be accurately diagnosed and treatment approaches prescribed. NAMI GLAC (National Alliance on Mental Illness Greater Los Angeles County) was invited to participate and given a seat at the county table providing us the opportunity to speak our mind, share our viewpoints and perspectives on all subject matters, and participate on multiple workgroups with specific agendas of reform. We were embraced as a full partner from the very start and for that opportunity we remain extremely grateful.
We were asked to assist in the work that led to the development of our county’s new Crisis Intervention Team-based de-escalation training for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD), for both Custody and Patrol, through our involvement on the LASD Investment in Mental Health Committee. Our District Attorney’s office coordinated the development of a training program designed for our county’s independent police departments and NAMI was proud to partner with our other law enforcement agencies. Our long-term commitment of providing ongoing presentations for the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Mental Health Intervention Training (MHIT) program remains in place to this day. This became our initial involvement in the implementation of the Sequential Intercept Model as envisioned by the “Blueprint for Change,” the roadmap drafted by the District Attorney’ Office and presented to the Board of Supervisors in April of 2015. As the work of the DA’s Criminal Justice Mental Health Advisory Board continued, we remained steadfast partners with our county leadership in the development of all the “intercepts” of the Model.
NAMI’s commitment to training is a responsibility we take very seriously. It is so important that our presenters are properly prepared for the task at hand, NAMI developed our own training program for our CIT presenters. Our training program has trained over 150 NAMI members just in Los Angeles and has been so successful that it has been adopted by other affiliates and NAMI National as a new Signature Program called “Sharing Your Story with Law Enforcement,” which is in the process of a nationwide rollout. NAMI became an integral part of our county’s law enforcement training programs to ensure that our sworn officers and deputies were provided the opportunity to listen to the family members and peers who are coping with the challenges of serious mental illness. These are the people law enforcement interacts with every day and in the spirit of community policing it is imperative officers know them, speak to them, and understand them. When people understand each other better it creates empathy, culture change, and an understanding that can only make everyone safer-citizens with serious mental illness and law enforcement.
Our law enforcement presentations started in September 2015 with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department Custody personnel. In February of 2016 we added presentations for the independent police departments of the county in a training program administered by the DA’s Office. Additional presentations for LASD Patrol were initiated in December 2016 rounding out our program with the Sheriff’s Department. At the peak of this training initiative, NAMI family members and peers were presenting to 10-12 training classes per month. Our presentations continue to this day. We have had the honor of presenting to over 7,800 officers and deputies to date and we know that we are making a difference. All one has to do is read the comments and evaluations from our presentations. Our stories are what these law enforcement participants remember from their training classes. Let us share with you just a few of the comments from their evaluations:
- I am very happy that I was able to participate in this presentation. You will never know how valuable this day was
- This should be a mandatory presentation for all first responders
- I wish I had received this training earlier in my career. This presentation has empowered me to take a few more minutes when encountering a possible mentally ill inmate. These extra minutes will allow me to better understand the real problem an inmate is going through
- Priceless presentation, I am better because of what I heard today
The results from our presentations reinforce the commitment and efforts of our law enforcement agencies to move forward with reform. NAMI presenters come away from the classes knowing they have performed an important, essential community service by providing officers with an “inside look” at what it is like to have a mental illness and how that impacts families. We are the human faces of serious mental illness and we are what they remember most from their class. The officers and deputies express almost unanimous support for the program and our involvement with their training. They tell us that it is our real-life stories that help them understand both the people they serve and the reason this training is so important.
Additionally, the District Attorney’s Office nominated our Criminal Justice Chair, Mark Gale, to the Permanent Steering Committee of the Office of Diversion and Reentry which came into existence as a direct result of our county’s adoption of the Blueprint for Change roadmap. This appointment has provided NAMI with the opportunity to continue to share our policy perspectives and ideas with our county’s criminal justice and behavioral health leadership in order to help justice-involved offenders with serious mental illness and substance use disorder regain their health and become productive members of our communities. Our partnership has also led to the election of our NAMI Greater Los Angeles County CEO, Brittney Weissman, as Chair of the Mental Health Commission. Additionally, she was appointed by Supervisor Hahn’s Office as a voting member of the Alternatives to Incarceration Workgroup that has written the next roadmap for our county.
We look forward to continuing our involvement and advocacy with our county partners and stand ready to serve our communities throughout Los Angeles.
Sylvia Gil, CIT Program Coordinator
Mark Gale, Criminal Justice Chair
Brittney Weissman, CEO