Thresholds

City of Chicago Announces Reforms to Address Crisis Interventions and Mental Health

Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug serves on Citywide Mental Health Response Steering Committee

Mark Ishaug. Photo by Andrew Collings.

The City of Chicago announced a number of reforms today to address crisis intervention and policing, as well as other mental health and behavioral health concerns. Among the many initiatives listed is a commitment to increasing Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trained officers in the Chicago Police Department (CPD) by 50%, as well as a commitment to enhancing and expanding the mental health awareness for all officers in CPD.

Thresholds and NAMI-Chicago previously called for both of these measures, and we are pleased to see immediate forward movement on addressing issues of crisis response. Persons with mental illnesses face enormous stigma. The City of Chicago’s intention to train first responders, dispatchers and 911 operators, and police officers on mental health awareness will go a long way towards ensuring that persons with mental illnesses receive appropriate treatment that increases safety for everyone.

Thresholds CEO Mark Ishaug, NAMI-Chicago Executive Director Alexa James, and Kennedy Forum Illinois Executive Director Kelly O’Brien are serving on the Citywide Mental Health Response Steering Committee, along with representatives from the Mayor’s Office, Chicago Police Department, Office of Emergency Management and Communications, Chicago Fire Department, Department of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Chicago, and healthcare and hospital partners. The goal of the task force is to provide recommendations and guidance as the City of Chicago seeks to better connect persons experiencing behavioral health crises to services and treatment while keeping them from inappropriate institutions like emergency rooms and jails. We are pleased that the City of Chicago has sought advice and recommendations from a wide range of experts and stakeholders, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to connect persons with mental illnesses to effective treatment and services.

“The vast majority of officers will encounter someone who needs crisis intervention,” said Mark Ishaug. “We look forward to working with City stakeholders to explore new ways to connect those residents to high-quality services that prevent them from unnecessarily entering emergency rooms and jails.”

This coordination between government departments, police officers and jails, emergency rooms and hospitals, and community-based mental health and substance use agencies is a key to ending the cycle of jail time, emergency rooms, and homelessness. Community-based mental health care like the type provided at Thresholds is the most effective and least costly way to help persons with serious mental illnesses live independently in their communities and recover. We can only truly divert persons with mental illness away from our criminal justice system with a fully-funded community-based mental health system in Illinois that is paired with high-quality, permanent, and affordable housing. The first step is for our state to pass a budget, supported by adequate revenue, which includes a robust investment in mental health and affordable housing.

Press contact: Emily Moen, Director of Public Relations and Marketing, 773-572-5172, emily.moen@thresholds.org.