Thursday, April 17, 2008


When you read an article you can’t ask the author questions. I would like to ask Dr. Jeffrey L. Geller a few questions about his article “Commentary: Is CIT Today’s Lobotomy?”. {I found the article online in the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Online} Dr. Geller, MD, MPH is a Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School and I am person with less than two years of college. So let’s come up with a title for me. I am an ordained minister, but that does not get me into this discussion. I am a primary consumer ( meaning I have a mental illness) and a family member ( meaning one or more of my family members has/have a diagnosis), but that does not get me in the discussion either. Maybe if I called myself a folk anthropologist I could get into the discussion. Well I declare myself a folk anthropologist. Do I now qualify for the larger discussion or am I still on the sidelines?
“Being in favor of educating officers of police departments about mental illness and mental health services is like being in favor of motherhood and apple pie. Who could be against it? Refining this educative process to cadres of selected officers who become informed, benevolent interveners on the streets of our cities (and maybe even our towns and villages), saving from jail those whose mental illness-driven behaviors bring them to police attention sounds even more right. It is this first-blush appeal that accounts for the proliferation of Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) from their origin in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1988.”
That was how he began his article. He ended it like this.
“Finally, there's the cost of CIT. First, to train officers, police departments must carry part of their workforce on overtime since the officers in training are in addition to the normal workforce. This, in and of itself, hinders police departments from endorsing CIT. Second, there is a cost to the mental health system, since it is burdened repeatedly by receiving those who do not want services. Hospitals are called on multiple times each year to provide care and treatment to the same cohort of unwilling consumers CIT delivers to it. This is, in part, because CIT is an unleveraged process. There is no contract, the prospective patient has no responsibility, and there are no consequences. For many folks who are the "beneficiaries" of frequent police pick-ups which lead to jail, emergency room, psychiatric hospital, or shelter, the immediate outcome is irrelevant. In a short time they'll be back on the streets, and the play will repeat itself. For far too many, "CIT" might just as well stand for Consecutive Interventions without Treatment.”
Is this a sound argument? It sounds right. It is well written. It is argued by a prolific author and a highly regarded man in this field. Why do the hairs on the back of my neck stand up? It almost seems like in the end he stops writing about CIT and takes a shot at us. If we were not on the streets we would not be costing so much.
Well as he points out in his article we have been guinea pigs for many ideas over the years and eventually we seem to be resented for our mere existence.
My question to Dr. Geller and to my readers is very simple. As I have revealed before in this blog, I have spent lots of time on the streets too sick to even know my name at times. Do you think I would have rather been confronted by a trained CIT team or a SWAT team when I was so sick and living on the streets?
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