(RepublicanInformer.com)- Last weekend in Chicago, eleven people were murdered and another forty-five wounded – including an eight-year-old — in shootings across the city. Deadly weekends have become as much a part of the city’s make-up as deep-dish pizza and the White Sox/Cubs rivalry.
Rather than address the staggering epidemic in shootings by increasing police presence, Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be launching what the city is calling “alternative response” pilot programs this fall which will throw mental health professionals at the crime problem.
The plan is to deploy mental health professionals, rather than police, to respond to some 911 calls in Chicago.
The “alternative response” programs aim to take more of a public health approach when responding to 911 calls for mental health emergencies. The program was prompted by the protests to defund the police and after a number of mentally ill people were shot and killed by police officers.
The city claims that these programs are to both ensure the mentally ill are not “criminalized” and can get the help they need, as well as free up police to focus on crime.
Over the last six months 363 Chicago Police officers have retired and another 56 are on track to leave this month. At this rate the Chicago Police Department is expected to lose even more officers than it did in 2020 when 560 officers retired amid the violent riots over the in-custody death of George Floyd and the calls to defund the police.
The new ‘alternative response’ programs will dispatch a team that includes a mental health professional and a paramedic to respond to mental health-related calls. One of the programs will involve sending a paramedic and a mental health clinician for “behavioral health calls.” While the other program will involve sending something called a “recovery specialist” along with a paramedic on calls relating to substance abuse.
What is unclear is how 911 dispatchers will decide which calls get what kind of response.
However, the program will include having mental health professionals stationed inside 911 call centers to help monitor calls. Starting in October, these “mental health professionals” will also respond to some of the calls by offering assistance over the phone.
These “alternative response” programs are part of Lori Lightfoot’s $3.5 million Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement plan unveiled last month.