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Sandhills Center CIT partner wins international advocacy award

Sandhills Center CIT partner wins international advocacy award

Publication Date: September 29, 2022

George E. Reynolds Jr. of NAMI-Moore County accepted the award of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) Advocate of the Year from CIT International during the CIT International Conference, held recently in Pittsburg, PA.

Reynolds was nominated for the award by Sandhills Center, the Local Management Entity-Managed Care Organization (LME-MCO) for Moore County and 10 other counties in central North Carolina. For many years, Reynolds has served as an integral part of the development and delivery of CIT training for hundreds of law enforcement officers and other first responders in the Sandhills Center region.

The CIT International Advocate of the Year Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated exemplary active involvement in their local CIT program. It also acknowledges the award recipient’s advocacy of issues specific to behavioral health stigma while promoting high-quality treatment and services for people living with mental illness.

"George Reynolds is very deserving of this CIT International award,” said Sandhills Center CEO Victoria Whitt. “Sandhills Center is incredibly grateful to George for his longstanding support of and dedication to CIT training. He works tirelessly and selflessly to advocate for persons with mental illness, and to educate communities. For the last 14 years, George’s commitment has never wavered.”

Reynolds has been an instrumental leader and partner in CIT training, starting in 2007. Sandhills Center hosted its first CIT class in 2008. Since CIT’s inception, Reynolds has been active in curriculum planning and training logistics. As a NAMI-Moore County representative, he coordinates with family members to participate in panels during weeks of CIT instruction that address the concerns and challenges family members have while caring for loved ones experiencing mental illness.

Reynolds also has sought opportunities to expand behavioral health training to other appropriate organizations. In 2013, he reached out to the Moore County CIT planning committee to discuss mental health education in local schools utilizing an instructional model similar to that of CIT. From the initial meeting, the Sandhills Partnership was formed. Since that time, a two-day mental health crisis prevention and intervention training program for school personnel was developed. It has since expanded to additional county and city school districts. The Sandhills Partnership has gained recognition as a Program of Excellence in North Carolina.

Reynolds also assists in the development and delivery of CIT training in counties outside his home county. He has served as the NAMI volunteer representative for CIT partnerships in five counties within the Sandhills Center region -- Anson, Hoke, Montgomery, Moore and Richmond. He also serves as a NAMI volunteer for the Sandhills Center/UNC System CIT Partnership which educates campus police officers from across the state.

In addition to his advocacy work, Reynolds also serves as a CIT photographer, capturing images for video montages that are shown during graduation ceremonies at the end of each training week. He also takes class photos for the Sandhills Center website.

“George’s commitment represents an extraordinary belief in the importance of crisis training for first responders,” Whitt continued. “He has participated in classes throughout the global pandemic. He makes great use of every opportunity to provide first responders with relevant, valuable insights about interactions with people experiencing mental illness. He desires for all first responders to be CIT trained. While he is truly concerned for the safety of people in crisis, he also is highly concerned about officer safety.”