September 01, 2020  |  01:56 pm

Nick Richard, Executive Director of National Alliance on Mental Illness St. Tammany, was awarded the Crisis Intervention Team Advocate of the Year by CIT International.
The CIT Advocate Award recognizes a family member or other community advocate who demonstrates exemplary active involvement with their CIT program. They must have been instrumental in getting CIT started and/or promoting CIT as an engaging program that elevates the identity and ownership of CIT as a Community Program. This person always speaks boldly of issues specific to mental illness stigma (prejudice) and advocates for access to high quality care services for people who live, struggle and cope with mental illness.
Richard was nominated for the award by Major Wharton Muller, supervisor of the St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Crisis Intervention Team. Richard played an instrumental part during the formation of the STPSO CIT team. Since then, he has helped build strong community relationships between law enforcement, mental health care providers and community leaders.
“While I am humbled to receive this award, I cannot take full credit for the amazing work being done by law enforcement for mental health in our community,” Richard said. “I am thankful to Sheriff Randy Smith for recognizing the need and prioritizing the creation of our Crisis Intervention Team. I would also like to recognize Major Wharton Muller for his leadership of the CIT Team and our dedicated CIT deputies who work tirelessly every day helping our community’s most vulnerable. I feel the mission of CIT is so imperative for the law enforcement and mental health communities.”
Sheriff Randy Smith created the CIT team after taking office in 2016 to address the ongoing mental health crisis. The purpose of the team is to properly identify those with behavioral and substance abuse issues and when appropriate, route them to the proper treatment resources in lieu of incarceration. The CIT deputies are trained in de-escalation techniques when dealing with individuals in crisis and to coordinate with the appropriate resources to provide follow up assistance to those in need. They are on call 24/7 to respond to mental health crisis.
 “Our goal will always be to address the behavioral health and substance abuse issues in St. Tammany,” Sheriff Randy Smith said. “With the ongoing pandemic, now more than ever, the work our CIT Team does is invaluable to our community and we could not do it without the partnership of NAMI St. Tammany.”
If you are in a crisis or know someone who is please call the suicide hotline 211, or call 911.