Mental Health Crisis Training Given to Chicago's First Responders

Mental health crisis intervention training is now being given to Chicago police, fire and Office of Emergency Management and Communication personnel in the wake of several high-profile deadly incidents.

The training, held in a Chicago Fire Department facility in the city’s South Loop, includes crisis simulation scenarios observed by instructors through two-way mirrors. In the scenarios, responders learn how to identify and respond to those with mental health issues.

Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago stressed the importance of the new training initiative Monday.

“This program will help assure that we understand and address the unique needs of a very important segment of our society—those who suffer from altered mental status,” Santiago said.

Leslee Stein-Spencer, of the Chicago Fire Department, echoed that sentiment.

“When the person calls in with a medical emergency, the dispatcher knows what type of questions to ask, what type of information to illicit from the patient, so that information goes out to our team,” Stein-Spencer said.

Ninety percent of 911 operators have received the training, officials say, and 35 percent of police will have taken the eight-hour course by the end of the year.

“The goal for us is to insure we have enough officers in every district trained,” said Chicago police Supt. Eddie Johnson. “So that when a call comes out and they are identified, we have an adequate number of officers who can respond to these patrols.”

Advocate Illinois Masonic’s Dr. Eddie Markul expressed great optimism over the training program.

“I am confident, that in the very near future, we will be seen as a national leader in care for people in crisis,” he said.

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