911 must be able to dispatch health care for mental and behavioral health emergencies
#SupportCESSA: HB 2784 and SB 2117
10% of 911 calls request help with a mental or behavioral health emergency.
Since Illinois lacks a coordinated health care response service, 911 can only dispatch law enforcement.
Law enforcement practices focusing on “command and control” of a location actually makes many of these emergencies worse.
Law enforcement skills are rarely needed as people with mental illness are less likely to be violent than people without such a diagnosis.
Law enforcement is generally compelled to hospitalize or jail people needing this service, but 90% of people do not need such an invasive and costly response.
What is CESSA?
CESSA stands for Community Emergency Services and Support Act. It is a bill created by racial justice advocates at Access Living in partnership with the family of Stephon Watts. CESSA addresses the health needs of people who are not violent and who are not violating the law by sending support instead of police. It expands the reach of current programs operating across the state that have already rejected co-responder models for this population, requiring that such work be coordinated with and accessible through the State’s 911 systems. The mobile response service proposed by CESSA is based on the CAHOOTS model that operates in Eugene, Oregon, and dispatches teams of medics (either a nurse or an EMT) and a crisis worker (who has at least several years of experience in the mental health field) to calls requesting help for mental and behavioral health emergencies.
What Would CESSA Do?
If passed by the Illinois State Legislature,CESSA would establish an emergency response option for mental health emergencies, one that does not involve any police or law enforcement. CESSA requires each of the State’s EMS Regions to coordinate a mobile mental and behavioral health service through its 911 provider so that such service is available wherever the region provides ambulance service. Subject to certain minimum service levels, each EMS Region decides the extent to which it will rely on existing service options or encourages additional providers to offer services. CESSA would also:
Create a 911 response option apart from law enforcement for mental and behavioral health emergencies everywhere an ambulance service exists.
Require responders to use appropriate de-escalation techniques and then connect callers to their existing care providers or to available community services and supports.
Saves State and local dollars by supporting people in the community rather than in emergency rooms and jails.
Empower each EMS Region to design regionally appropriate systems.
THIS BILL DOES NOT TRAIN POLICE. CESSA is NOT based on a co-responder model, in which police are accompanied by social workers. The bill aims to avoid any police intervention.
Who Supports CESSA?
CESSA is supported by a wide variety of Chicago nonprofits, mental health professionals, community partners, allies, and elected officials, with more and more supporters signing on all the time. Current supporters include:
Advancing Your Leadership Power
Arc of Illinois
Asian Pacific American Advocates, Greater Chicago Chapter
Black Lives Matter Chicago
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (CAARPR)
Chicagoland Autism Connection
Chicago Torture Justice Center
Chicago Women Take Action
Family to Family
Family Health Center
Howard Brown Health Center
Institute on Disability and Human Development – University of Illinois, Chicago
It’s hard to miss the escalating national discussion about the need for mobile non-police emergency options. People want better options and safer communities, and most importantly, to stop deaths and disabling at the hands of police. Here are some recent stories from around the country: