Chicago’s 911 staff getting more mental health training

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CHICAGO -- Chicago 911 operators are getting more training so they’re better prepared in dealing with mental health emergencies.

Call takers and dispatchers have been undergoing a new eight hour training session.

They’re learning to recognize calls that are in need of a Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) response.

“In most cases, 911 call takers and dispatchers are the front line of emergency response, and we want to ensure that we are delivering the highest quality service both to the residents and first responders we serve,” said OEMC Executive Director Alicia-Tate Nadeau. “This training gives our 911 Operations staff the tools they need to help identify a mental health related call and ensure the proper resources are dispatched to help individuals with mental illness.”

More awareness has led to five times as many CIT identified calls.

“OEMC's leadership in developing, implementing and completing their first full day mental health awareness training is incredibly meaningful,” said Alexa James, executive director of NAMI Chicago. “OEMC call takers and dispatchers have an incredibly challenging job. Providing additional tools, strategies and skills to better understand crisis calls allows the responding officer to better prepare in responding to the call. Further, this training is initiating a cultural shift where customer service and support for callers that may be experiencing a mental health crisis is improving. We know this is a huge step in reducing further tragedy.”

The Kennedy Forum, NAMI Chicago and Chicago Department of Public Health have also developed a program to help residents identify the signs and symptoms of someone experiencing mental health or addiction issues.

The training will include where to find help in the community and how to contact a CIT-trained officer.

The pilot kicks off in January on the West Side. It’s expected to train at least 400 people from schools, churches, and community based organizations.