New method to respond to mental health crises

CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) – “We’ve been going for a few months, but so far we’ve kind of found our niche, determined where we’re useful and who we’re useful to,” Megan Cambron, Coordinator of crisis awareness at the University of Illinois Police Department, said.

This is a new process for some central Illinois police departments. They are starting to team up with mental health professionals to answer 9-1-1 calls. There have been nationwide calls for more mental health resources within police services. The idea has caught on in Illinois and cities in our area are starting to present their plans.

Champaign Fire Chief, Acting Police Chief and METCAD showcased new ways to respond to mental health calls. Their plan is for a mental health professional to answer calls with an agent.

This is part of a larger statewide initiative. The governor signed a law in August to establish mental and behavioral response units with 9-1-1 calls. The U of I police are already doing this. We learned at the IUPD how it works and they said they were happy with the way the pilot program has gone so far. They use a co-responder method, where a social worker answers calls with the police.

“We believe that using this true co-responder model is the safest and fastest way to bring mental health care providers to someone in crisis,” Cambron said.

The university police have social workers on the day and night shift. They said that when the police find out it is safe, they will let the social worker go ahead and talk to the person in crisis. They said it helps the person faster. The social worker will also intervene the next day and provide more resources to the person in crisis.

In addition to the U of I Police, the Champaign County Sheriff’s Office, Rantoul Police Department, and Urbana Police Department have all made their plans.

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