CHAMPAIGN-URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — The U of I Police Department is seeing success in a program they launched last year. Crisis counselors go out with police officers on mental health calls.    

“It’s nice to have someone who is– that we know we can trust, and that patient can trust as well,” said Alex Tran, behavioral health detective.

They are trained counselors who go with police officers during mental health calls.

So, instead of police officers and K-9s, it’s police officers and counselors. Tran says the counselors not only make the jobs of officers easier–but are beneficial for the community. The problem is they only have three.

“We definitely wish we could clone ourselves; you know. We can only do what we can do,” said Becky Rowe, crisis responder, “I wanted to be able to do what I could to assist our law enforcement partners with the struggle we have in the streets right now.”

Rowe recognizes that people suffering from mental illness in the Champaign-Urbana need help. She believes her job could make the difference between having a successful mental health call or one with an unneeded escalation.

“My experience is when we’re on the scene, we’re providing a calmer… it’s just a little bit more of a calm experience for the people that we’re assisting,” said Rowe.

While the department has seen the success she is talking about, Rowe says there are not enough crisis responders to handle the amount of crisis calls they get. Last year the department said there were nearly 350 calls, but they could only make it to 102 of them.

“[With] more social workers, more qualified officers, more officers trained in mental health or behavioral health, crisis intervention stuff, we could have coverage 24/7,” said Tran.

Officer Tran says they want to be fully staffed by the end of the year. So, they hope more counselors will apply.