Mental Health Crisis Line Expands

By: Ashmar Mandou

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - HealthAmid the ongoing battle to address mental health issues affecting residents, the City of Chicago announced that the Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE) Program has expanded to four communities with a new team structure. Approval from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) of a new response protocol means Chicago Fire Department (CFD) Community Paramedics and Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) mental health practitioners can respond to 911 calls that involve a mental health crisis without involving police officers. 

“Historically, responses to mental health or substance use crises have been left to our police officers, in addition to everything else we ask them to take on,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “I’m so proud that the City of Chicago is expanding our CARE program because it appropriately puts health at the center of our mental health crisis response.  It’s not just about the 911 call, it’s also about following up with residents to break the cycle of repeated crises and get people the care and resources that they need.”  

According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, since September, the teams have responded to over 200 911 calls and conducted over 170 follow-ups (telephonically and in-person). Most CARE responses result in services provided in the community or initial consultation with the CARE team and then a means of transport to the hospital or alternate destination, like a shelter or crisis stabilization center.  Starting this week, the new format for the CARE alternate response teams will include a CFD Community Paramedic and a CDPH Mental Health Clinician. The program will run in Chicago Lawn, Gage Park, West Elsdon and West Lawn. The alternative response teams will operate Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The CARE program involves offering eligible residents transfer to settings in the community instead of the emergency department such as psychiatric living rooms, shelters, mental health clinics, and crisis centers.  CARE team members also follow up with individuals who receive CARE services one, seven, and thirty days after their initial contact. Individuals are also linked to community-based services to ensure that they are safe and stable and that their underlying needs are being addressed. 

Fire Commissioner Nance-Holt stated, “The men and women of the Chicago Fire Department are trusted members of the communities we work and live in. Our Community Paramedics are proud to work within the CARE program addressing health-care inequities and ensuring that individuals in crisis are linked with the appropriate resources to address their needs.” 

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