Open/Close Menu CITNJ police based crisis intervention training with community mental health care and advocacy partnerships.

The CIT-NJ (Crisis Intervention Team Program) was established here in New Jersey in 2007, based on the evidence based best practice, CIT Memphis Model. The (CIT-NJ) program is an innovative international police model that incorporates collaboration between the community’s law enforcement system and mental health system to respond to the needs of those in psychiatric crisis. This partnership develops and sustains a 40 hour CIT certification program for its police departments and mental health providers in order to provide them with knowledge about mental illnesses, crisis resolution skills and access to community based services. The CIT-NJ program in a county based program operational in 20 or New Jersey’s 21 counties.  The program has trained over 6,000 students in the 4o-hour program only.

In 2023, the CIT-NJ Center of Excellence Program was able to expand their program to help veterans in crisis by offering a new 2-day program call VRT (Veterans Response Team). CIT-NJ collaborated with Veterans Affairs from Delaware, Philadelphia, and New Jersey to help create a new VRT program for New Jersey.

On January 17, 2023 CIT-NJ was able to deliver this new program with the help of many, including, the hospitality of Caesars hotel & casino who hosted the event. The program was provided to 56 students throughout New Jersey. Twenty-Nine of the students were military veterans and currently active law enforcement, the remaining students were CIT-NJ county coordinators from law enforcement, and a variety of mental health professions from around the state. The new program built on their existing CIT-NJ skills, while learning new additional skills necessary to address veterans in crisis and help them to safety, and to resources available to them in the community.

Veterans, who attended the program, now have the additional skills they need to address and aid veterans in times of crisis — moments that often result in a call for a police response.

Through the Veterans Response Team Program, the new graduates will have an extra tool in reaching fellow veterans in need. The goal, said CIT-NJ Director Edward C. Dobleman, who oversees the State Veterans Response Team, is to eventually have an officer specifically trained on veterans response available in these moments of crisis — especially if a responding agency doesn’t have a VRT-trained officer.

That’s why we invited our CIT-NJ Coordinators from around the State to attend. We are looking to train officers throughout the state in partnership with our CIT-NJ program.

“We’ve seen (these calls) more frequently in the past year or so,” Dobleman said, referencing calls for people barricaded inside their homes. “Some last a half-hour to several hours, but we want to get them out of crisis.” Officer safety is still the crux of this initiative, just like every CIT-NJ program.

“The majority of individuals officers come into contact with are having some type of mental crisis,” said State CIT-NJ Director Edward C. Dobleman. “Having officers with the most up-to-date training, de-escalation techniques, and all those things in place … lessen the chances of having to use any type of force.”

Mental health initiatives such as the VRT program, have been at the forefront of Dobleman’s mind since taking the position of State CIT-NJ Director in 2013. That effort first began over 12 years ago when retired Chief Edward Dobleman helped coordinate Crisis Intervention Training for police in Camden, County. Now the state director, Dobleman help leads that training here in New Jersey to help police de-escalate a crisis and offer options other than just the criminal justice system.

“Unfortunately, police officers in our country end up becoming the default boots on the ground mental health professionals because we have very limited resources,” Dobleman said. “When people don’t know where else to call, they call 911.”

The problem with that, Dobleman said, is that the community then expects a mental health response from officers often lacking the knowledge to address the issue or connect the person with needed resources. The Veterans Response Training and other CIT-NJ programs aim to change that.

For now, the training is available only to those who have served in the United States military. Dobleman said they plan to offer this training throughout the state — through the continuous support of our Crisis Intervention Team. “It’s important that we take care of the people taking care of the country,” Dobleman said.

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