Sep 21, 2022 - News

Differences between 911 and new 988 line in Chicago

Illustration of a woman's hands making a heart shape over a red siren light.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

👋 Hey, it's Monica. A few weeks ago a friend called with an urgent question.

What happened: She saw someone having a mental health crisis on a street in Logan Square and wanted to call for help without involving police.

Context: I misunderstood the role of 988 operators, who I thought could dispatch mobile help. They can't.

  • Instead, they offer assistance to people in crisis over the phone.

Why it matters: Traditional sirens and police officers aren't always the ideal solution to a mental health crisis. Police responses to such situations have sometimes ended in tragedy.

  • But the city isn't currently set up to dispatch mental health professionals to all emergencies that could use them.

The intrigue: Some emerging programs can dispatch specialists to people in crisis.

  • The city's Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE) pilot launched last fall to dispatch mental health professionals, with or without crisis intervention trained police officers, through 911.
  • It currently serves Uptown, Lakeview, North Center, Auburn Gresham, Chatham, Gage Park, West Elsdon, West Lawn, Chicago Lawn and West Englewood.
  • Officials say they have already responded to nearly 400 calls without any use of force, arrests or significant injuries to staff.

What's more: A new Mobile Crisis Response Team was launched this summer by nonprofit Thresholds.

  • Contacted through (773) 572-5464, the program can send help to three ZIP codes covering parts of Lakeview, Uptown, Andersonville and Edgewater.

Yes, but: Both services are available only on weekdays during business hours, which is not the only time people go through a crisis.

The big picture: Other cities are piloting similar programs while collecting data on their efficacy and potential for expansion.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more