New method to responding to mental health crises

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CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — “We’ve been going for a couple months here, but so far we’re sort of finding our footing, figuring out where we’re useful and who we’re useful to,” Megan Cambron, Crisis Outreach Coordinator at University of Illinois Police Department, said.

It’s a process that’s new for some Central Illinois police departments. They’re starting to team up with mental health professionals to respond to 9-1-1 calls. There have been nationwide calls for more mental health resources within police departments. The idea has taken hold in Illinois and cities in our area are starting to lay out their plans.

The Champaign Fire Chief, Interim Police Chief, and METCAD presented new ways to respond to mental health calls. Their plan is for a mental health professional to respond to calls with an officer.

This is part of a larger, state-wide initiative. The governor signed a law in August to establish mental and behavioral response units with 9-1-1 calls. U of I police are already doing this. We caught UIPD about how it’s working and they said they are happy with how the pilot program has gone so far. They are utilizing a co-responder method, where a social worker responds to calls with police.

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

University Police have social workers for day and night shift. They said when police know it’s safe, they will let the social worker go ahead and talk to the person in crisis. They said this gives the person help quicker. The social worker will also respond the next day and provide more resources for the person in crisis.

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

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