News Release
January 12, 2017

Citywide Mental Health Steering Commitee Announces Free Mental Health Awareness Training

City’s first responders, community leaders launch West Side Outreach Project to reduce mental health stigma, improve crisis response and generate awareness of city support services available

Erica Duncan    erica.duncan@cityofchicago.org

The Citywide Mental Health Response Steering Committee today kicked-off a new community-based initiative to improve awareness and reduce stigma around mental health. The “West Side Outreach Project” is another step forward in the efforts to improve crisis response for individuals with mental illness and will provide residents with information about how to access the city’s mental health services and engage with the city’s mental health services and a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trained first responder in a time of crisis.

“Individuals facing mental health challenges are not alone and this important project by the Citywide Mental Health Steering Committee will ensure more Chicagoans receive the support and treatment they need,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “The City of Chicago is taking a holistic approach to outreach, response and care for people with mental illness and this initiative will ensure more Chicagoans have access to world-class mental health services.”

“Last January, I announced comprehensive reforms to address how first responders can best serve individuals with mental illness,” said Mayor Emanuel. “As part of these efforts, I convened the Mental Health Steering Committee to take a holistic look at all aspects of the response – from policies and training of 911 call takers and dispatchers, to police training and de-escalation tactics and service delivery. With this milestone, we are ensuring that every aspect of the City’s first-response efforts are effective and meeting the needs of individuals who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.”

The pilot project will provide free mental health training to schools, faith-based institutions and community organizations with the goal of training more than 400 community members over the next six months in Police Districts 10, 11 and 15 - largely the Austin, North Lawndale and East/West Garfield communities. The training will be delivered by various mental health providers in the City, including NAMI Chicago, Presence Health, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Sinai Hospital and Thresholds, including tailored trainings for specific audiences.

“The community is a critical partner in a comprehensive approach to improving the crisis response for individuals with mental health challenges, said Kelly O’Brien, Executive Director of The Kennedy Forum. “We have made some important strides in better preparing our emergency responders, but this will take all of us working together. It’s our hope that this training will not only help to empower community members to access the support they need, but also help to combat some of the stigma around these issues.”

UIC’s Jane Addams College of Social Work is spearheading an evaluation of the effectiveness of this training, with an eye toward expanding its reach to all of Chicago’s communities. The study will evaluate if the trainings 1) increase mental health literacy on Chicago’s west side, 2) reduce stigmatizing attitudes/beliefs about mental illness, 3) increase deployments of CIT trained officers in crisis situations, and increase referrals to professional mental health services. The study is funded jointly by the Michael Reese Health Trust and the Chicago Department of Public Health.

These efforts build on citywide efforts to improve how emergency responders respond to incidents involving an individual facing a mental health crisis. Last month, the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) announced that since the new eight-hour mental health training was rolled out earlier this year, more than 425 OEMC staff received the training which has resulted in better recognition and increased dispatch of CIT trained officers. Since January of 2016, close to 500 additional Chicago Police officers have been CIT certified, and the increase in CIT officers dispatched to mental health-related calls has increased more than 7 fold from the previous year.

Last January, Mayor Emanuel announced a series of comprehensive reforms stemming from the recommendations of the Citywide Mental Health Response Steering Committee to address how the City’s first responders can better serve individuals with mental illness. These reforms have improved and expanded the City’s CIT certification already in place and will help to ensure that first responders have the information, skills and training necessary to de-escalate interactions when possible. The Committee includes representatives from Mayor’s Office, Chicago Police Department, Office of Emergency Management and Communications, Chicago Fire Department, Department of Public Health, National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago, The Kennedy Forum, Thresholds, Mount Sinai Health System and University of Illinois at Chicago. The Steering Committee continues to meet monthly to address its goals of improving training, increasing access to social services, reducing the stigma of mental health, educating the public on mental health first response, and collecting better data on outcomes.

West Side Outreach Project partners include: Advocate Health Care, Alderman Burnett, Alderman Mitts, Alderman Scott, Alderman Taliaferro, Anixter Center, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago: Center for Childhood Resilience, BBF Family Services, Bethany Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield Illinois, Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center, Catholic Charities, Chicago Area Project, Chicago Department of Public Health, Chicago Police Department, The Chicago Urban League, Commissioner Robert Steele, Cook County Health and Hospitals System, Gateway Foundation, Hartgrove Behavioral Health, Health and Disability Advocates, I Am Able, Interfaith Mental Health Coalition, The Kennedy Forum Illinois, Loretto Hospital, Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, MADO Healthcare, Marshall High School, NAMI Chicago, Next Level Health, Presence Health, Primo Center, St. Anthony's Hospital, Sandy Hook Promise, Sinai Hospital, Thresholds, Trilogy Behavioral Healthcare, Westside Health Authority, and University of Illinois-Chicago.

Community members in these areas can participate in training by completing a request form or call 312-563-0445.