Winnebago Co. groups join forces to handle mental health crisis situations

When responding to mental health crises, law enforcement teams up with mental health professionals
Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 10:12 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Winnebago County, area communities, local law enforcement and Rosecrance join forces to change how we handle mental health crisis situations.

“I don’t see a negative in this program at all and I’ve gone to trainings with both of them, with Rosecrance, with the city,” Winnebago County Deputy Chief Tammie Stanley said.

It’s called the Winnebago County Crisis Co-Responder Team Program, and the county’s Public Safety and Judiciary Committee is expected to approve its guidelines.

“That way the officers are there to provide safety,” said committee vice chairperson Aaron Booker. “The mental health professional is there to work out problems so that we can minimize any type of situation getting out of control.”

Booker supports the program and says jail isn’t a place for someone struggling with their mental health.

“These individuals, these incidents, these cases can get referred to Rosecrance, and Rosecrance then can admit the person or continue the person into any type of mental health counseling,” he said.

The current county board member spent his career in law enforcement. He recalls a time when someone took an aggressive stance with a golf club, and Booker had to quickly decide how to handle the situation. This new crisis team prevents those kinds of situations through extra training.

“We’ve gotta be progressive. We’ve gotta stay ahead of the game as much as we can,” Booker said.

The Chairman’s Office of the Criminal Justice Initiative director Marlana Dokken says this program is a win for law enforcement, mental health professionals and the person struggling.

“The individual receiving the services has the benefit of having a community that’s trauma-informed and working to not arrest them and help them on their mental health,” Dokken said.

The program is funded by state and federal grants. The City of Rockford already applied for the funding for 2023 and 2024.

Dokken says the program’s biggest benefit is to keep people, who struggle with mental health challenges, out of jail.