Amarillo, TX - The Amarillo Police Department is nearly doubling the size of a lesser-known unit in the force.
The APD's Crisis Intervention Team began in 2007. The highly-trained team of officer deals with the challenges of assisting people with mental health issues. Eight years later, there are now 8 officer in the program but more on the way.
"I really like helping people, helping them get through their problems," said CIT officer Nathan Thompson.
Thompson joined the CIT program two years ago because he felt there was more he could do to help citizens with mental health issues.
"There's people we use to deal with day in and day out with mental health issues. Over time, it may take several trips to their house to be able to figure out what works for them," said Thompson.
Thompson and the team go through specialized training to better prepare them to recognized, communicate with, and assist people having a mental health crisis.
"Some of the classes that we go to are specific to someone being suicidal versus someone being Schizophrenic or PTSD type," said Thompson.
Soon five more officer will be apart of the team. Although the program is nearly a decade old, the APD doesn't think the public knows a lot about what the program and what these officers do.
"I'm surprised that when we mention it or talk about the CIT guys, very often people look at us and say they don't know what we're talking about," said Sergeant Brent Barbee with the Amarillo Police Department.
Barbee says many times people are too afraid to call the police in mental health situations because they don't think they are trained or they fear violence will break out.
"We don't want anyone to be afraid to call the police over fear there will be some sort of unnecessary violence because we do everything we can to avoid it," said Barbee.
Officials through The Pavilion at Northwest Texas Hospital agree having the CIT in our community is necessary.
"It's so important to be approachable, to speak to someone, to still treat them with respect, and they can understand what's going on," said CEO at the Pavilion Samantha Castle.