Award Winners

Award Winners

CIT Behavioral Health Specialist of the Year

Dr. Cherylynn Lee

Santa Barbara, California

The Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Behavioral Healthcare Practitioner of the Year Award recognizes a person who demonstrates exemplary, ongoing commitment to being actively involved with CIT community partnerships and works to improve access to services within their own system or with the community mental health system.

Dr. Cherylynn Lee is a police psychologist who started at the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office as a volunteer. She was well regarded and offered a part-time, then full-time job to start the Behavioral Sciences Unit. She also created the agency’s first co-response program in partnership with county mental health. Dr. Lee wrote her department’s first 8-hour and 40-hour CIT curriculums and actively teaches the courses, which have wait lists due to its popularity amongst law enforcement. She works tirelessly to provide cutting-edge training and brings in relevant and well-regarded subject matter experts to assist in the teaching. She not only teaches the CIT training but has developed a program where the community feels safe contacting law enforcement and co-response teams for mental health crisis assistance. Dr. Lee is the bridge between all things mental health and law enforcement in her community and works tirelessly to improve crisis system understanding and access.

Michael Woody/Michele Saunders CIT Coordinator of the Year

Emilie Smiley, MPA

Madison, Wisconsin

The CIT Coordinator Award is named in honor of CIT International founding Board Members Michael Woody and Michele Saunders and recognizes a person from law enforcement or corrections that oversees their CIT program or a mental health provider or advocate who is a strong leader for their community CIT program. This person must demonstrate their leadership in organizing their CIT program, ensuring there is a community steering committee, and using their leadership abilities to help grow and sustain CIT as a community program.

When Emilie Smiley started in 2021 as the NAMI Wisconsin Program Director, overseeing the CIT program, there were only 13 CIT Teams. Since that time, she has connected with local law enforcement and community stakeholders to grow the CIT program to 24 coordinating teams, covering 34 of 72 counties. Emilie spearheaded the Annual Wisconsin CIT Symposium event, bringing together CIT officers and stakeholders for networking and education for the first time in Wisconsin. Additionally, Emilie helped establish a Wisconsin Co-responder Summit and Wisconsin Co-responder Advisory Committee for mental health care professionals who work with law enforcement to respond to calls. Emilie is also involved in statewide advocacy for better crisis response systems in Wisconsin and was invited to Burlington, Vermont to present at the Conference of Chief Justices and State Court Administrators. She also presented CIT efforts in Wisconsin to the Chief Justice Mental Health Task Force. The Wisconsin CIT program would not have grown to where it is today without Emilie’s leadership.

CIT Advocate of the Year

Adina Peyton

Huntsville, Alabama

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 and advocates for access to high quality care services for people who live, struggle and cope with mental illness.

Ms. Adina Peyton's dedication to CIT is manifest in everything she had done following the death of her son in a standoff with local police while he was experiencing a mental health crisis. Learning that there were no CIT trained officers on duty that night, she made improved CIT training her mission and that of her organization, Getting Real About Mental Illness (GRAMI). She financed GRAMI and its early public relations efforts largely out of her own pocket and has worked tirelessly to find ways to raise funding for its activities. Since retiring last year, she has devoted almost all her time and energy into increasing the effectiveness of GRAMI in CIT and behavioral counseling. Ms. Peyton has worked ceaselessly to educate local elected officials about the need for improved behavioral health care, especially for First Responders. She decided that the best legacy for her son is to make sure others, including First Responders, can get the help they needed to avoid, or at least defuse, similar crises. Her dedication to CIT is an inspiration to all those around her.

CIT Telecommunications Specialist of the Year

Caressa Lopez

Palm Beach, Florida

The CIT Telecommunication Specialist Award recognizes a dispatcher, call taker or crisis specialist who demonstrates continuous use of exemplary CIT knowledge and skills. Their work highlights their outstanding dedication to the CIT program, CIT Services and advancing CIT as a community success.

Caressa Lopez is committed to working in the capacity of a 911 call taker. Through the diverse callers, they adapt to other’s needs, and convey genuine assistance to the public. They have received accolades from their agency based on their remarkable assistance to the public and dedication to public safety. Caressa embodies the core of CIT through a steadfast commitment to integrity, innovation, and teamwork. They consistently uphold CIT's philosophy by fostering an environment of inclusivity and collaboration, where diverse perspectives are valued. Their dedication to excellence in every endeavor reflects CIT's principles of quality and accountability. Caressa consistently demonstrates compassion towards individuals with lived experiences and their families through genuine empathy and understanding. They approach every interaction with sensitivity, acknowledging the unique challenges and emotions that individuals and families may be facing. By actively listening without judgment, they create a safe and supportive space where individuals feel valued and heard. In essence, Caressa Lopez personifies CIT's values by demonstrating integrity in their actions, embracing innovation, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement, making them a true asset to their organization.

CIT First Responder of the Year

Jeremy Holroyd

Howard County, Maryland

The CIT First Responder Award recognizes a CIT first responder who demonstrates continuous use of exemplary CIT knowledge and skills. Their work highlights their outstanding dedication to the CIT program, CIT Services and advancing CIT as a community success.

Officer Jeremy Holroyd brings personal and professional expertise to the CIT program. He is very engaging and knowledgeable when presenting at CIT based training and always receives positive feedback from those attending the course. Officer Holroyd, who is retired Army, has also recognized the increased risk to mental health and wellbeing among veterans and has sought out effective interventions. He utilizes his CIT skills in everyday practice, from his personal life to his professional life. He shows compassion and respect and collaborates to find the best course of action for the individual in crisis and their loved ones, all while maintaining safety for all involved in each situation. Officer Holroyd has expanded the CIT program in a positive direction that benefits his agency and the community that he serves. In addition to training police personnel, he has willingly provided training to community and government agencies to raise awareness about those with mental health crisis and how to effectively respond to them. Officer Holroyd’s compassion, respect and collaboration to find the best course of action for the individual in crisis and their loved ones, while maintaining safety for all involved is exemplary.

CIT Corrections Officer of the Year

Randall E. Larkin Jr.

London, Ohio

The CIT Corrections Officer Award recognizes a CIT Corrections Officer who demonstrates continuous use of exemplary CIT knowledge and skills. Their work highlights their outstanding dedication to the CIT program, CIT Services and advancing its success within Corrections.

Officer Larkin has worked at London Correctional Institution (LoCI) since 2013 and devotes much of his time to CIT. ODRC conducted 52 CIT trainings last year, and Larkin helped lead 20 sessions while also working at London Correctional Institution. “CIT is about making sure we go home the same way we came in and this is another tool in our toolbelt to make this happen,” said Officer Larkin.

“He's not only a pioneer in CIT but a leader at our facility. He is our ‘go-to’ guy. He’s passionate about his job and I couldn’t be happier for him,” said LoCI Warden Mike DeMartino. ODRC Director Annette Chambers-Smith added that CIT is one of the most important programs that the agency has: “Practicing the elements of crisis intervention is another tool we have to keep our staff and prisons safe. We aim to train staff to de-escalate and avoid potentially dangerous situations with these techniques. Officer Larkin is leading by example, and his commitment certainly deserves this recognition.”

CIT Law Enforcement Executive of the Year

Chief Charles Roca

Allentown, Pennsylvania

The CIT Law Enforcement Executive Award recognizes a Sheriff, Chief or a member of the Law Enforcement Executive Staff who actively supports the CIT program in their community. This person must demonstrate their support of the Core Elements of the CIT program as well as a commitment to community partnerships. This person may be instrumental in driving the creation of a new program or in maintaining a vibrant existing program that incorporates refresher training and other advanced efforts.

Chief Charles Roca serves as a champion and advocate for the CIT program within the police department and the broader community. He serves as a liaison between the Department and mental health service providers, facilitating communication and collaboration to ensure seamless coordination of care for individuals in crisis. He actively promotes community engagement initiatives, such as town hall meetings, where residents can voice concerns and suggestions regarding mental health issues and law enforcement practices. Additionally, the Chief encourages officers to participate in outreach programs, fostering positive relationships with local mental health organizations and community leaders. By championing these efforts, the Chief cultivates a supportive environment where law enforcement and the community work together to address mental health crises effectively and compassionately, ensuring the success and sustainability of the CIT program, both within the police department and within the community. Through his leadership and commitment, he has helped ensure that law enforcement officers are better equipped to respond to mental health crises with empathy, compassion, and effectiveness, ultimately promoting the safety and well-being of both individuals in crisis and the community at large.

Fred Frese CIT Person with Lived Experience Award

Borinquen "Bo" Hall

Miami Beach, Florida

This award, which is named in honor of the late CIT International Board Member, Dr. Fred Frees, recognizes a person who lives with mental illness or co-occurring substance use disorders who is actively involved with CIT as a community program – from promoting, planning, participating in the training, assisting with the implementation or with ongoing sustainability efforts. It recognizes a person who incorporates their knowledge and familiarity with systems and care issues; engages opportunities (as peer and/or friend) to assist others and always introduces CIT in conversations with others as a theme or calling of hope.

Bo is a tireless supporter of CIT and its mission. He preaches that persons in crisis deserve premier mental health services. He fights for this daily and is a force to be reckoned with as a homeless outreach peer specialist for the Miami Beach PD. Assisting people in crisis, professionals, or LEOs, Bo uses his voice of hope to inspire and advocate. Day or night, Bo shows up using his CIT resources to link individuals to services and assist officers when navigating through the system of care. Bo participates in all CIT platforms, is a dedicated and beyond passionate CIT ambassador. He spends his days trouble-shooting the system and collaborating with partners and stakeholders to find solutions for those in need of crisis services. He advocates and is involved in coalitions and platforms that are working towards common goals such as improving legislation, greater access to services, treatment, and care coordination. Bo is unstoppable in his CIT endeavors because he is CIT. He knows what the community needs because he is his community. Bo survived the streets, homeless and in crisis most of his life and has now dedicated his life to pay it forward. He uses his life as an example and his story to help those with lived experience walk proud, stand tall and reach for their own goals and aspirations.