East St. Louis among first IL cities to launch program pairing cops with mental health professionals

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 8:11 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed off on a bill Tuesday to create and fund a pilot program pairing police officers with mental health professionals in several Illinois cities.

It’s called the Co-Responders Pilot Program. The pilot will support police in areas across the state in teaming up with social service agencies to address the root causes of disturbances or crime, according to the governor’s office. Initial programs will launch in Peoria, Springfield, East St. Louis, and Waukegan in the next six months.

People in need will be connected to proper resources and not jail.

“I think that’s going to make a big difference,” said Rachel Linzy, a coordinator intake specialist at Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center of Saint Clair County. “Just drive up the street, you’ll see a lot of mental health clients that are roaming the streets.”

Linzy told News 4 she has encountered many clients who have had run-ins with law enforcement.

“I do have a lot that say that the police--they take their time and then they don’t know how to really handle the situation a lot times when they get there,” she added.

Robert Smith is an East St. Louis resident who gets treatment at Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center of Saint Clair County. He told News 4 he has had encounters with law enforcement.

“This saved my life--this program right here,” Smith added. “I’m clean and sober now, but I still have mental issues.”

The City of St. Louis launched a similar program last year called Cops and Clinicians, modeled after a program in Denver. According to the city, of the nearly 5,000 cases analyzed up until February 2022, police didn’t make an arrest 95% of the time. Also, 80% of cases through the 911 diversion program were resolved without police or medics.

Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center of Saint Clair County is hosting a mental health fair May 25 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at its location at South 8th Street in East Saint Louis.