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CESSA Passes Illinois Senate Committee! Here's What Happens Next


May 20, 2021 | by Jerome Palliser

Updates from Access Living

CESSA Passes Illinois Senate Committee! Here’s What Happens Next

Access Living friends and allies:

We are pleased to share that the Community Emergency Services and Supports Act (CESSA) passed an important committee milestone yesterday, thanks in part to your advocacy. The CESSA bill was passed unanimously by Illinois Senators in the Behavioral and Mental Committee! Plus, more than 500 people filed witness slips in support, which is incredible. The next step for CESSA is to see if it will be called for a vote before the full Illinois State Senate. The deadline for that is May 28. So we have more work to do to help let our State Senators know that we need CESSA in Illinois. Read on for how you can help.

How to #SupportCESSA

Send an Email to Your Illinois State Senator:

If you live in Illinois, you can send a letter to your State Senator to support CESSA using this link. Every State Senator needs to hear from disability advocates about why you think CESSA is important.

Promote CESSA on Social Media:

Are you a fan of social media? Do you love Twitter, Facebook and Instagram? Than you can help us advocate for CESSA on your favorite media. Here is a link to the CESSA social media toolkit. Encourage your friends to help amplify this work!

Check Out the “Big Push for CESSA” Coalition Toolkit:

The coalition of organizations that are working to pass CESSA created a toolkit to help people advocate for CESSA. You can check it out at this link: The Big Push for CESSA II.pdf

About CESSA:

The goal of CESSA is to ensure that 911 emergency dispatch can actually dispatch appropriate non-police support for people with disabilities who are in mental or behavioral health crises. Far too often, when 911 dispatches police to these kinds of emergency calls, police “command and control” culture practices may result in physical harm, incarceration, or death for the person with a disability. We all deserve better.

CESSA was developed over the last several years by Access Living’s racial justice organizing group, Advance Your Leadership Power (AYLP), in partnership with the family of Stephon Watts, a young man with a disability who was killed by police in his own home. CESSA recognizes what should be common sense: it’s not a crime to need mental health supports.

Did you know:

  • 10% of 911 calls request help with a mental or behavioral health emergency.
  • Since Illinois lacks a coordinated health care response service, 911 can generally 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 for these calls, 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 who need help do not need such an invasive and costly response.

CESSA would:

  • Support creation of a 911 response option separate 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.
  • Save State and local dollars by supporting people in the community rather than in emergency rooms and jails.
  • Support each EMS Region to design regionally appropriate systems.

An important note: This bill is not a Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) bill. The CESSA bill is complementary to, but separate from, CIT training for when police are required to confront violent or unlawful activity.

Feel free to share this alert with fellow community members. Thank you for your advocacy.