New initiative from Cook County Sheriff has mental health professionals part of first response team

WGN Investigates

COOK COUNTY, Ill.— As police departments across the country deal with a growing number of 911 calls linked to mental health issues, the Cook County Sheriff’s Office is rolling out its own program.

The new tool puts mental health professionals at the center of any difficult encounter police may have while responding to calls. 

Patrol officers will be equipped with tablets which will link people to mental health professionals on the other end of a video call. 

So far this year, Cook County has seen a 57% increase in 911 calls linked to mental health issues. 

“If there’s one consistent note I hear everywhere around the country it’s that people would like to have law enforcement not be the first responder to houses when there’s a mental health issue,” Sheriff Tom Dart said.

Ellie Petacque Montgomery, who leads the Sheriff’s Treatment Response team, is also part of the new initiative.

“The moment they have that device and they see a non-officer, a clinician, a mental health professional, who can talk to them through this device instantly, you start seeing them come down,” she said.

The department started with 35 tablets and plans to double that number.  Dart said he wants to expand the program to include other police departments countywide.

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