Rockford, Illinois News

City of Rockford announces law enforcement pilot program

ROCKFORD — City officials, on Wednesday, announced the launch of a pilot program that will partner police officers with mental health professionals.

“This new model will provide law enforcement with appropriate alternatives to arrest,” Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea said. “Working with Rosecrance on these calls will allow us to be better serve the residents of our community.”

During the three-month pilot, designated unit members will respond together for mental health crisis calls. The cohort group will train together and the program will be adapted based on metrics gathered in the months of November, December and January. The three agencies will share the cost of the pilot through their existing budgets.

“We have long acknowledged the need to quickly help individuals who are experiencing a serious mental health episode, and through this pilot program we will identify how we can truly help individuals who need professional services, not jail,” Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana said.

Data will be collected throughout the initial pilot to measure the effectiveness of the program and make changes, as necessary.

“Representatives from all agencies are committed to developing an effective program that will provide the necessary response to help individuals in need, while also providing relief to first responders for more relevant calls,” said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara.

Rosecrance will assist with training the co-responder team, including Rockford police, county sheriff’s deputies, and Rosecrance staff.

“Rosecrance is proud to be part of such a critical endeavor in our community to provide immediate, compassionate response to those experiencing a psychiatric crisis,” said Dave Gomel, president of Rosecrance Health Network. “Together we will ensure the Co-Responder team is professionally trained and competently equipped to address these critical situations.”

The co-responder pilot program is expected to launch on Nov. 1.

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