Christine Cohen

State Senator

Christine Cohen

Deputy President Pro Tempore

Listening, Advocating & Getting Results

May 4, 2023

Sen. Christine Cohen Votes to Expand Access to Crisis Intervention Training for Police Officers

HARTFORD, CT – Today, state Senator Christine Cohen (D-Guilford), voted to pass a bill that will require police officer training on strategies including crisis intervention. This bill will also develop recommendations on how police officers and social workers may collaborate.

Senate Bill 972, ‘An Act Concerning Crisis Intervention Training For Police Officers And Collaboration Between Police Officers And Social Workers,’ passed the Senate by a unanimous vote and now heads to the House of Representatives.

“Across this state and our country, countless people are facing mental health challenges and so many of the calls our police officers respond to are people experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Senator Cohen. “These people need help and our police officers need the tools to respond safely and effectively. I am proud to say, here in the 12th district, there are a number of police forces that can be held up as a model in crisis intervention practices. Branford, for example, has committed to training for all officers, has a police social worker on staff and has set up collaborative efforts with community social work organizations. I’m thrilled that this legislation will expand this training and knowledge to more departments across the state.”

Currently, each police training program given by the Police Officer Standards and Training Council (POST), the State Police, or a police department must include POST-developed curricula for police officers on interacting with either people who have mental or physical disabilities or are deaf, hard of hearing, or deaf-blind. This bill will require POST to add to the training crisis intervention strategies for police officers to use when interacting with people with mental illness in crisis.

Crisis Intervention Training will help reduce the risk of serious injuries during an interaction between officers and a person with mental illness. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the lack of mental health crisis services across the U.S. has resulted in law enforcement officers serving as first responders to most crises. A Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program is an innovative, community-based approach to improve the outcomes of these encounters. CIT programs create connections between law enforcement, mental health providers, hospital emergency services and individuals with mental illness and their families.

SB 972 will also work to build relationships between police officers and social workers. A list of recommendations on how police officers can collaborate with social workers will be determined. Police are often the first responders to individuals in distress and sometimes they are the only responders.

The most comprehensive police social work practice is found in Illinois and Wisconsin. Police social workers are employed within more than 35 police departments and provide a variety of services in response to domestic violence, elder abuse and mental health.

The Connecticut Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers submitted written testimony explaining the avenues social workers take when assisting those in crisis. The president wrote, “Social workers have extensive training in working with diverse populations, are problem solvers, experts in de-escalation. Through a “person-in-environment” approach, they can assist individuals and families to resolve societal problems. Social workers are aware of community resources and know how to access them. Social workers are advocates for clients in a way that creates trust and supportive relationships.”