Differences between 911 and new 988 line in Chicago
👋 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.
- I advised her to call the new 988 mental health hotline, but her call was routed to 911, and the police came anyway.
- My bad.
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.
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