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Dart to Rauner: Pay to train cops to deal with mentally ill

Thursday, August 27, 2015
Chicago Sun-Times
by Frank Main

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart on Wednesday urged Gov. Bruce Rauner to restore funding to train officers to deal with mentally ill people experiencing a crisis.

On July 1, the state ceased funding for Crisis Intervention Team training for cops across the state, according to Dart. More than 3,100 officers from more than 250 law enforcement agencies have received the training since 2003, he said.

Those officers are trained to de-escalate conflicts involving mentally ill people and divert them into treatment, rather than putting them in jail.

When Dart learned of the state cuts, he moved $20,000 from the sheriff’s budget to train 60 officers. “Smaller departments don’t have that luxury,” said a spokesman, Ben Breit.

Dart and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago warned that further cuts to mental health funding will “end some lives, ruin others, and swell the ranks of our emergency rooms, homeless shelters, jails and prisons.”

The Chicago Police Department has used state Crisis Intervention Team funding to train its officers in responding to the mentally ill, officials say. The program was created in 2012, and more than 2,200 officers have received the training through 2014.

Tim McCarthy, the chief of the southwest suburban Orland Park Police Department, said he formed a 12-officer Crisis Intervention Team about a year ago and will add five officers to the team in October.

The closing of the Tinley Park Mental Health Center in 2012 by former Gov. Pat Quinn has led to a spike in emergency calls about people with mental illness, he said. In 2014, his department was involved in 160 involuntary committals of people for mental health treatment, up from only four in 2011.

“That tells me the mental health system is failing,” he said in an interview. “Sheriff Dart is calling on restoring more funding to the state budget to support mental health, and we would totally agree.”

McCarthy said: “We’ve had a number of big successes where people thanked us for the help they received.”

“If we have to pay a couple of thousand of dollars [per officer] for the training, that will be a burden,” he said.

 


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