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Habsi W. Kaba MS LMFT CMS

Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Leader/Coordinator 

Miami-Dade and Police Mental Health Collaboration

Eleventh Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project

CIT International, Board Member

Click here to view an Interview with CIT Coordinator Habsi W. Kaba and find answers for the below questions:


Please tell me a little bit more about yourself like your educational background, job titles, the different roles you currently have, and how long you have been doing this.

To become a member of a Crisis Intervention Team, police officers undergo a 40-hour training which emphasizes understanding of mental illness and the development of communication skills. Does this training involve education on a broad range of mental illness?


Are there specific mental health issues that are focused on in CIT training? If so, can you explain the thought process behind the decision to focus on these?


The training of a member of a Crisis Negotiations Unit involves learning advanced communication skills to deal with an individual with a mental illness. Are there specific communication skills for different types of mental illness, or is there a general way of dealing with all individuals with mental illness?


I noticed that in the Miami Dade County CIT Program, the training includes a practical experience and sensitizing component in which individuals with mental health conditions are brought in to share their personal experiences. This obviously humanizes such people by bringing a new perspective, and also builds empathy. I found that in Jacksonville or Duval County, while CIT training does involve some exposure to controlled mental health environments, training for the Crisis Negotiations Unit doesn’t involve such direct exposure. To what extent do you believe practical experience in hearing personal stories from those with mental health conditions benefits training?


An emphasis on internal characteristics of an individual rather than external factors in explaining their behavior is known as Fundamental Attribution Error. An example of this cognitive heuristic could be if a psychiatrist attributes aggression to internal processes within their patient rather than considering contextual factors, leading to an overestimation of the level of risk of the patient.


Since any individual may react in dramatic or emotional ways in a situation of high-pressure such as a crisis response, how does CIT curriculum and training define the line between a normal emotional reaction and a mental health issue that warrants a different type of treatment?


Can you please walk me through the steps in handling an individual in a crisis response after they are recognized to have a mental illness?


Does part of the CIT program involve meeting at scheduled intervals to refresh and update training, and discuss potential improvements with each other?


The assessment and management of the risk of a person with a mental illness is an important part in deciding the appropriate treatment for and handling of them. Are there any specific risk evaluation procedures or assessments that officers conduct to determine the person’s risk to themself and others?


A mental health issue is often not something one can explicitly see. Although officers do not have to identify or diagnose specific types of mental disorders, being able to recognize behavior that is symptomatic of mental illness is important to enable officers to adopt an appropriate disposition in dealing with individuals to avoid escalating the situation.


Although each individual is different, what are some general characteristics an individual might exhibit that signify a mental health condition that warrants a special type of treatment?


What are some helpful approaches to use when interacting with people who have a mental illness?


What are some harmful approaches to avoid (for example, phrases to avoid saying) when interacting with people who have a mental illness?


In the case of non-violent crisis intervention, what are some non-verbal and verbal techniques that could be used to de-escalate a person who is “acting out?”


If a crisis response at first seems to be non-violent, but later escalates to a physical level, what basic personal safety techniques could be used by officers?


In Florida, the Baker Act allows individuals who exhibit certain characteristics to be involuntarily committed to a mental health treatment center. How are officers involved in determining whether someone meets these criteria?


Do you know any common misconceptions people have of those with behavioral or mental health conditions? Or common myths of particular mental health conditions that should be debunked?


What are your opinions on a co-response model where specially trained officers and mental health workers respond together to mental health calls?


Not are you involved in provided CIT training, but you are also part of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Criminal Mental Health Project, or CMHP, which aims to divert nonviolent defendants with serious mental illnesses from the criminal justice system into community-based treatment and support services. Can you please elaborate on what this project is and its efficiency?

Dealing with intense responses to crises is stressful and mentally taxing for responders themselves. Are there any tools or services or post-crisis debriefing provided to support officers after a crisis response?


Does Miami-Dade County have a Critical Incident Stress Management Team, or CISM, which responds to the emotional and psychological effects experienced by responders themselves following stressful responses and critical incidents?


Are any resources provided to families of police officers or law enforcement workers to help them recognize and identify signs of unhealthy stress and support officers if they are going through a particularly stressful time?

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