Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Chicago to expand alternative 911 response program

A new alternative 911 response team in Chicago for those with a mental health or substance use component has launched on the city’s west side, officials announced Monday.

The program, which works on weekdays in the East and West Garfield Park and Humboldt Park neighborhoods, sends a Chicago Fire Department community paramedic and a peer recovery specialist from the University of Illinois Chicago’s Community Outreach Intervention Projects on calls to connect Chicagoans to ongoing substance use care, provide harm reduction resources and provide follow-up support in the days after people experience an overdose.

As part of the expansion announced Monday, the city will launch a team to operate in the Loop and Near South Side neighborhoods by March. Teams will start responding in Rogers Park, West Ridge, parts of Edgewater, South Chicago, Avalon Park, Calumet Heights, South Deering, East Side and Hegewisch by the summer.

Additionally, the city has received approval from the state to expand the minimum age eligibility for the program to 12 years old, compared to the current age of 18 or older. By March, teams will begin to respond to suicide threats and will be eligible to take calls related to well-being checks, criminal trespass or suspicious persons when they involve a mental health component.

“For too long, mental health emergencies were left solely to police or fire department personnel, along with all their other responsibilities,” said Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady. “With (the initiative), we can put healthcare at the center of mental health crisis response, to focus on the immediate crisis and also connect individuals to support services to improve their physical and mental health.”

In the first 15 months of operations, the initiative has responded to 539 crisis incidents, with 465 follow-up support contacts and zero arrests.