The Skokie Police Department's two-person Co-Responder team responds to individuals in crisis, linking them to services, monitoring individuals post initial response and providing follow-up with individuals in need of ongoing services. The team includes Skokie Police Officer Kimberly Blue, who has completed Crisis Intervention Training for law enforcement, and Village social worker Brian McHugh.
The new Co-Responder team was created after a successful May 2021 Co-Responder Pilot Program between the Health and Human Services, Fire and Police Departments. This pilot also included collecting first-responder data from April and June 2021 from Skokie Police officers, social workers and various community mental health organizations. During the pilot program, officers indicated that the presence of a social worker would have been beneficial in response to 136 calls for service. Social worker response provided many positive outcomes during the pilot, including:
Referrals of individuals to needed services.
Only a small percentage of individuals were transported to the hospital for evaluation, all of whom went voluntarily.
Three-quarters of the individuals did not have any additional calls for service after their initial contact with the social worker.
The pilot program proved that having a social worker trained in crisis respond to individuals in crisis situations can have a positive impact in connecting individuals with needed services, deescalating the situation and decreasing repeated calls for service in the future. It also served as an excellent tool to cross-train first responders and social workers on mental/behavioral health crisis calls, including how to de-escalate situations, the types of services available to residents and how to best accommodate individuals experiencing a crisis.
Lessons learned during the pilot are being utilized for the Co-Responder Program, for example, the two-person team’s shift stretches into the afternoon and early evening hours when the need is greatest.
The Co-Responder team regularly collaborates with Skokie and regional mental health organizations to ensure there is coordinated collaboration and referrals to available services. The team regularly visits the Niles Township Food Pantry, the transit hub at Oakton Street and Skokie Boulevard, and other areas in the community where residents and visitors often need assistance. Data collection and analysis will continue to gauge the effectiveness of the program and to continually improve the program moving forward.