Chicago to Respond to 911 Calls by Sending Mental Health Experts Instead of Police
A paramedic will be dispatched alongside a mental health clinician
Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s Chicago, a city plagued with unprecedented violent crime, will now send mental health professionals instead of police in response to some 911 calls.
A paramedic will be dispatched alongside a mental health clinician for 911 calls deemed to be linked to “behavioral health."
Chicago saw last year ending with 4,033 shooting victims compared with 2,598 the year prior.
The new arrangements aim to stem those front-line losses with the use of mental health clinicians.
But it is not clear how responders will be able to de-escalate violence, which likely erupts in these types of calls.
The programs underwrite a “public health approach” to responding to 911 calls, according to the Times.
Alex Heaton, Lightfoot’s policy adviser for public safety, said:
“We’re super excited."
“This is a brand new workforce for the city, and it’s an exciting opportunity to use a public health approach for people likely to come in contact with the first responder system.”
Mental health clinicians will begin responding to calls in August, a move that comes not long after Joe Biden's visit to the city.
The plan, dubbed 'Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement,' costs the taxpayer $3.5 million and was made public in a June 29 meeting of the mayor’s Violence Prevention Planning Committee.
Earlier this month, a one-month-old baby girl was among the 32 people shot in Chicago in a single day.
The attack left the one-month-old in critical condition after gunmen opened fire on a group of people “in the 6500-block of South Halsted Street.”
In May, Chicago’s biggest police union issued a vote of no confidence in Lori Lightfoot.
Police Superintendent David Brown and First Deputy Superintendent Eric Carter cited a “lack of consideration” for police officers’ working conditions.
Lightfoot blamed the union for prolonging talks on a deal for thousands of rank-and-file police officers who proceeded to work without a contract, saying they were losing “literally tens of thousands of dollars” in pay every year.
"So frankly, getting a vote of no-confidence from that guy is a badge of honor,” Lightfoot commented.