ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Governor Pritzker recently signed HB4736, authorizing the creation and funding of the Co-Responders Pilot Program.

The pilot will support police in areas across the state in teaming up with social service agencies to address the root causes of disturbances or crime. Initial programs will launch in Peoria, Springfield, East St. Louis and Waukegan in the next six months.

“We know that building a safer Illinois means approaching crime from every possible angle,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This program combines the necessary skills of police with the specialized training of social workers and mental health professionals to address the root causes of crime compassionately and safely. This is supported by data and by what law enforcement officers on the ground are telling us about the incidents they are addressing.”

According to officials, the Co-Responder Pilot Program authorizes police officers to bring social workers and mental health professionals on calls to assess if the person is experiencing a mental health crisis. Law enforcement and social workers can then decide if a mental health facility or other support could address their needs and behaviors. Governor Pritzker’s FY23 budget allocated $10 million dollars to fund this pilot.

In addition to the Co-Responders Pilot Program, officials said the bill addresses victim’s rights and public safety holistically by mandating trauma-informed training for homicide investigators, authorizing funding to the Violent Crime Witness Protection Act and creating a grant program to create tip hotlines or other victim and witness resources.

Gov. Pritzker also signed two other bills into law as part of his administration’s research informed and multi-pronged approach to public safety and victim’s rights:

  • HB3863, a bill addressing the strain put on first responders and the difficulties associated with attracting and retaining officers. This fund recognizes the challenges and stresses presented by a career in law enforcement and offers retention incentives and recruiting funds to preserve force numbers.
  • HB 2985, which authorizes the creation of a fund to directly pay funeral expenses of children murdered due to gun violence. Previously, families had to pay for these expenses upfront and then apply for reimbursement, placing a financial burden on those most in need of support during a time of tragedy. 

“Everyone in every zip code should feel comfortable being able to walk down the street,” said State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago). “No matter where you are, who you are or where you live you should deserve to feel comfortable and safe. This measure does that by expanding witness protection and by incorporating the voices and needs of stakeholders and survivors.”