A message from CIT International – The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut
CIT International joins communities throughout the United States and the world in mourning the loss of so many innocent lives recently in Newtown, Connecticut.
Focusing on gun control is certainly a natural reaction to such a tragedy. As a nation, we clearly need to have a meaningful conversation about gun control and gun violence. However, we also need to have a meaningful conversation about mental illness and the mental health system of care, or lack thereof in this nation.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), one in four Americans experiences a mental health problem in any given year. One person in 17 lives with a serious mental illness. Most persons with mental illness are not violent, and most violent crimes are committed by people who do not have mental illness.
USA Today (01-02- 2013) carried an article written by Ron Honberg, Policy and Legal Advisor for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Mr. Honberg presented a much needed perspective: “…It's far easier to buy a gun in the U.S. than to access mental health care. We rally around people diagnosed with other conditions, such as diabetes or cancer. We shun people with symptoms of possible mental illness and erect barriers to treatment.
Since 2008, America has cut $4 billion from its already ailing public mental health system. Many community mental health programs have disappeared and more than 4,000 psychiatric hospital beds have been eliminated. For too many, even basic mental health care is illusory. People can't get help until they go into crisis.”
The National Council for Behavioral Healthcare reported that the relentless focus on federal spending cuts is jeopardizing the health and safety of communities nationwide. In Washington, it is well accepted that large-scale deficit reductions are imperative to our future fiscal health. However, social support programs, and those they serve, have borne the brunt of spending cuts in recent years and some would use the deficit reduction challenge for further dismantling of the frayed safety net.
The National Sheriff’s Association (NSA) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) have indicated their willingness to work with leaders on reducing gun violence and making sure people within their communities feel safe. These organizations support the need for a strong mental health system in which people who need help have access to services.
CIT International joins our partners, NAMI National, International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Sheriff’s Association, National Council for Behavioral Healthcare and Mental Health America in a Call to Action from our membership and others to be a united voice in reducing gun violence and fighting funding cuts in mental health and substance abuse services at the federal, state and local levels.
The CIT program is a unique first responder crisis response program. CIT brings community stakeholders together to provide a safer and more effective response to people with mental illnesses who are in crisis. CIT is transforming communities across the nation by helping to improve access to mental health services.
CIT is a strong collaborative voice helping to maintain community resources for mental health and substance abuse services. CIT programs across our nation are building and improving linkages and infrastructures necessary to connect people with mental health resources.
CIT is more than just training. We are a community of partners working together to improve people’s lives through education and advocacy. CIT is working to eliminate stigma so people can seek and receive the help they need in times of mental health crises.
Honberg further stated “It is time to make mental health care a continual national priority, not just in the days after tragedies.” CIT International couldn’t agree more.
We welcome opportunities of joining with the nation in open dialogues relating to mental illness and safety by means of community partnerships. We are optimistic that together we can find solutions through and with understanding and services.
In closing, the members of CIT International and its Board of Directors again offer our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to all affected by this horrific tragedy.