URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) – “The co-sponsor model brings together police and service providers,” said Carol Mitten, city administrator for Urbana.
It’s a new system that the Urbana Police Department will use to help during a mental health crisis. Urbana will soon have a new team of crisis co-respondents. It will combine a behavioral health detective and a mental health professional. They will answer 9-1-1 calls, but the help doesn’t stop there.
It’s a one-year pilot program. This will be a way to help people with behavioral or mental health crises more. Urbana City Council members spoke at their meeting about a new pilot program that will begin soon.
“We are very interested in responding to the wishes of the wider community to do something different,” Mitten said.
Mayor Diane Marlin says the city is in crisis mode due to gun violence and this program aims to move forward.
“This is an opportunity for us to help people now,” said Mayor Diane Marlin. “I mean we can start this and we will start this this month. We can do better than we can. We can do more than what we do.
In 2004, the Urbana Police Department launched a Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT. This involved training officers to handle appeals in the event of a mental health or behavior crisis. In 2020, the police responded to around 800 calls with a mental health component. Now the city says more needs to be done.
“This is a step forward to better serve people and why shouldn’t we do it at this point,” said Mayor Marlin.
The Urbana Police Department will partner with Rosecrance, an addiction treatment center in central Illinois, to establish a Crisis Co-Responder, or CCRT, team.
“People are unfortunately going to meet the police anyway,” Mitten said. “The idea behind this is that if you go to the people who have had repeated contact with the police and start connecting them to the services, you will end up minimizing their contact with the police overall.”
This will pair a police officer from Urbana with a clinician from Rosecrance. The city chose an officer, who also has training as a social worker. They will respond to calls that require mental health services. CCRT will also conduct several follow-ups with people in need of services and help them find the resources they may need.
“The referrals are about trying to get them help so that they aren’t in a crisis and no one calls the police, they get the help they need,” Mitten said.
The team will be in an unmarked car. The council also talked about having special uniforms for them. The program will only run weekdays until 6 p.m. The council discussed ways to address these gaps. They also discussed ways to provide housing for some people who might need a place to go in a crisis.