New crisis response team coming to Urbana

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URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — “The co-responder model is pairing police and service providers together,” Carol Mitten, Urbana City Administrator, said.

That’s a new system the Urbana Police Department will be using to help during a mental health crisis. Urbana will soon have a new crisis co-responder team. It will pair a behavioral health detective and a mental health professional. They’ll respond to 9-1-1 calls, but the help isn’t stopping there.

It’s a one-year pilot program. It will be a way to give people having a behavioral or mental health crisis more help. Urbana City Council members talked at their meeting about a new pilot program starting soon.

“We’re very interested in responding to the desires of the broader community to do something different,” Mitten said.

Mayor Diane Marlin says the city is in crisis mode because of gun violence and this program is about moving forward.

“This is an opportunity for us to help people now,” Mayor Diane Marlin said. “I mean we can get this started and we will get this started this month. We can do better than we’re doing. We can do more than we’re doing.”

In 2004, the Urbana Police Department began a Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT. It involved training officers to handle calls for mental health or behavioral crisis. In 2020, the police responded to about 800 calls with a mental health component. Now, the city says more needs to be done.

“This is a step forward to better serving the people and why wouldn’t we do this at this point,” Mayor Marlin said.

The Urbana Police Department will partner with Rosecrance, a substance abuse treatment center in Central Illinois to implement a Crisis Co-Responder Team, or CCRT.

“People are going to be encountering the police unfortunately anyway,” Mitten said. “The idea behind this is if you go to the people who have had repeated contact with the police and you start to connect them to services that you will eventually minimize their contacts with police overall.”

This will pair one Urbana Police Officer with one Rosecrance clinician. The city has an officer picked out, who is also educated as a social worker. They will go to calls that require mental health services. The CCRT will also do multiple follow ups with people in need of services and help set them up with resources they may need.

“The referrals are to try and get them help so that they aren’t in crisis and no one is calling the police, they’re getting the assistance that they need,” Mitten said.

The team will be in an unmarked car. The council talked about having special uniforms for them as well. The program will only be on weekdays until 6:00 p.m. The council talked about ways to fix those gaps. They also discussed ways to provide housing for some people who may need a spot to go when a crisis happens.

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