History of Ventura County
Ventura County is a semi-urban/semi-rural area with approximately 800,000 residents; it is located in southern California between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties. The county borders beaches, mountain ranges, and National and State Park systems. Agriculture, high-tech businesses, and retail stores provide the major labor markets in this area. For six decades, one of the largest employers in Ventura County was the local locked State Mental Hospital. Over time, as the State Mental Hospital phased out it's services and eventually closed in 1997, the demographics of Ventura County were affected, as people with mental illnesses were released to the community. Adequate provisions were not made to housing and treatment for many of these displaced individuals, often leaving them to fend for themselves. It is estimated that 11,960 mentally ill adults currently reside in Ventura County.
Evolution of the Ventura County CIT program:
As a result of shootings that occurred in the late 1990's and in 2001, the CIT program was brought to Ventura County through the efforts of Ventura Police Department (VPD), the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department (BHD), and Oxnard Police Department (OPD). Sergeant Mark Stadler and Corporal Jack Richards of VPD, Dr. Michael Ferguson of the BHD, and later Commander Scott Whitney of OPD, went to San Jose, California, during 2001 to learn about the "Memphis Model" CIT program and experience the 40-hour CIT training. At this period of time, a CIT stakeholders meeting was started.
In December 2001, the first 40-hour CIT training was conducted in Ventura County. In early 2002, a mutual aid protocol was signed in order to coordinate this countywide effort - which includes five Police Departments and a Sheriff's Department with six substations. Three more 40-hour CIT trainings were conducted during 2002. During 2002, CIT trained officers began to fill out CIT Event Summary forms. By the end of the year 2002, both VPD and ODP had 20% of patrol officers trained. During 2003, six CIT trainings were conducted. In the beginning of 2003, non-CIT trained officers began to fill out CIT Event Summary forms. By the end of 2003, the Sheriff's Department had 20% of patrol officers trained.
During mid-2003, a weekly interagency meeting involving staff from the BHD and all law enforcement agencies in Ventura County began in order to identify (using the CIT database) and systematically link mentally ill individuals with mental health treatment.
In 2004, CIT field interview (FI) cards were introduced, as a more user-friendly option to the CIT Event Summary Forms. During mid-2004, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed by all of the VC law enforcement agencies in order to continue funding the program administrator and program assistant positions through June, 2006.