Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Chicago today urged Governor Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers to fund critical advanced mental health training for Illinois law enforcement.
As of July 1, the state ceased funding Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for police officers statewide. CIT training lasts a minimum of one week and provides the knowledge and skills for police officers to safely de-escalate and divert non-violent individuals experiencing a mental health crisis into treatment rather than incarceration. According to the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, more than 3,100 police officers from more than 250 Illinois law enforcement agencies have been CIT trained since 2003.
CIT trained officers are equipped to keep non-violent individuals experiencing mental health crises out of jail by diverting them into treatment, which is significantly less expensive than incarceration. It costs $143 per day on average to incarcerate one person at Cook County Jail, which has emerged as the largest mental health institution in Illinois. That financial toll can double or triple when taking into account medications and treatment for individuals in custody living with mental illness. Failing to divert on the front end serves to initiate a track towards state prison, costing Illinois taxpayers much more on the back end.
“Crimes such as breaking into an abandoned home to sleep, stealing candy bars to subdue hunger, buying drugs to self-medicate for mental illness – these are acts that generally reflect the need for help, not incarceration. And it takes officers who are properly trained to handle individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, with the realization that incarceration is substantially more expensive than diversion and treatment,” said Sheriff Dart. “For every officer denied access to CIT training, we’re catalyzing Illinois’ descent into fiscal insolvency and solidifying our reliance on incarceration.”
CIT-training has been shown to reduce the rate of re-arrests of offenders living with mental illness by 58 percent*. CIT-trained officers are 25 percent more likely than the average officer to transport an individual in crisis to a psychiatric facility**.
“Further delay is unacceptable, because it means incarceration will rise for individuals living with mental illness,” said Alexa James, Executive Director of NAMI Chicago. “We call upon on the Governor and the General Assembly to use the revenue solutions at their disposal to solve the budget crisis and to pass a fully funded yearlong budget.”
Illinois has been among the leading national offenders in state mental health cuts over the past 10 years. Governor Rauner’s proposed budget would slash an additional $82 million in state mental health services. Both Sheriff Dart and NAMI Chicago have been strongly engaged in fighting these draconian and short-sighted cuts. NAMI Chicago recently staged a large rally at the Thompson Center urging the Governor to reconsider his strategy, while Sheriff Dart personally wrote to all state legislators to warn that further cuts to mental health services will “end some lives, ruin others and swell the ranks of our emergency rooms, homeless shelters, jails and prisons.”
* TAPA Center for Jail Diversion. (2004). “What can we say about the effectiveness of jail diversion programs for persons with co-occurring disorders?” The National GAINS Center. https://gainscenter.samhsa.gov/pdfs/jail_diversion/whatcanwesay.pdf
** Teller, J., Munetz, M., Gil, K. & Ritter, C. (2006). “Crisis intervention team training for police officers responding to mental disturbance calls.” Psychiatric Services, 57, 232-237.