Chicago To Dispatch Mental Health Experts On Some 911 Calls Instead Of Cops

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Chicago will be dispatching mental health professionals along with paramedics instead of police forces on some 911 calls in Chicago according to Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

In one future pilot program, for example, a paramedic will be sent with a mental health clinician for “behavioral health calls” according to a report by The Chicago Times.

In another instance, a paramedic will be working along with a “recovery specialist” on calls related to substance abuse.

The reorganization comes as data from the Chicago Police Pension Board showed that so far more policemen have departed the force in 2021 so far than in all of 2018.

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Reports noted that 363 police officers have so far retired in Chicago just between January to June — compared to the 339 officers who left the force in the whole 2018 — as crime and lawlessness continue to creep across the city.

Meanwhile, over the past year, the number of homicide cases and shootings in Chicago increased substantially, recording more violence in one year than in more than two decades, according to Breitbart News.

According to Breitbart News, the number of killings and shootings in Chicago increased substantially in 2020, with more violence than in all but one year in more than two decades.

Chicago also saw 4,033 shooting victims last year compared with 2,598 recorded the year before.

Following three years of declining homicide numbers, 2020 concluded with 769 killings, 274 more than the previous year and the highest since 2016’s 784 homicide cases.

The Times noted that the “alternative response” programs in Chicago are also being implemented amid continuing debate over the role of the cops in the death of George Floyd under the hands of the Minneapolis police forces last year.

Mental health experts noted that the new arrangements in Chicago could help mitigate front-line losses and casualties since they will be present at the 911 center to monitor situations. 

However, it remains unclear how these new responders will successfully de-escalate violence that may occur during such calls.

 Chicago Times reported that the new programs underwrite a “public health approach” to responding to 911 calls in case of emergency. 

Lightfoot’s policy adviser for public safety, Alex Heaton, expressed enthusiasm in the new approach — which is expected to commence next month.

“We’re super excited,” Heaton commented. 

“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,” he added.

The reorganized teams will start responding to 911 calls in August — the rollout follows President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Chicago, where critics noted how the Democratic chief executive ignored the increasing gun violence across the city.

Mayor Lightfoot’s $3.5 million — under the city’s Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement — was made public during the June 29 meeting of the Democrat mayor’s Violence Prevention Planning Committee.

Heaton said the city hopes the program will allow people to get “the help they need instead of just having them spend time in police custody,” according to the Times story.

Nonetheless, while expectations are high for the program, reports noted that the same experiments have had mixed results across the country.

According to CBS News’ murder map, Chicago is one of the deadliest cities in the country with a murder rate of 18.26 per 100,000. 

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