ST. CHARLES – These days, police officers are training for every situation they might come across – including how to deal with a person who might be having a mental health issue.
"Several years ago, the Fox River Valley Initiative and I and a lot of other community organizations started working on crisis intervention training," Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said during his monthly media briefing on May 14. "We went through the state law enforcement training standards board to get our crisis intervention training program. And we're thrilled that we now have more than 150 Kane County police officers who have gone through and successfully completed crisis intervention training."
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The training program has been in place since 2017.
"Now, when there is a mental health crisis and police need to intervene, people know to ask for a CIT-trained officer," said Carol Speckmann, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness KDK, which serves southern Kane County, DeKalb and Kendall Counties. "Officers are able to deescalate the issue at hand."
Speckmann and others joined McMahon at the media briefing to talk about mental health issues and what improvements need to be made. She talked about the need for crisis stabilization units.
"To me, it's like a two-pronged approach," Speckmann said. "We need the officers to be CIT-trained and then we need to have places where individuals can go and get treatment and the mental health support that they need."
Crisis stabilization units are small inpatient facilities of less than 16 beds for people in a mental health crisis whose needs cannot be met safely in residential service settings, according to NAMI's website. CSUs may be designed to admit on a voluntary or involuntary basis when the person needs a safe, secure environment that is less restrictive than a hospital. CSUs try to stabilize the person and get him or her back into the community quickly.
McMahon also spoke about the need for crisis stabilization units.
"A lot of times when the police respond to these situations, it may be that a crime did occur," he said. "But the most appropriate response for both community and the direct victim is something other than incarceration, whether it's short term incarceration or long term incarceration. So having a crisis stabilization unit will give law enforcement another option for the victim and the family and law enforcement to respond to that situation."
For those individuals who do get charged, McMahon noted Kane County has specialty courts within its court system "where we are looking at really kind of getting at the issue that led to the behavior, whether it's psychiatric counseling, mental health counseling, drug and alcohol counseling."
Presence Mercy Medical Center in Aurora is making plans to convert an unused operating room into a crisis stabilization unit.
"It's going to be a huge asset to the residents of Kane County," McMahon said, in talking about the project. "I think it will reduce a jail population. I think it will reduce the number of people that come into the criminal justice system...We're excited that we've made some progress on that front."