Measure is first-in-the-nation approach

CHICAGO – Illinois will become the first state to provide people experiencing mental health crises with more appropriate responses thanks to a law sponsored by State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago).

“Our goal as public servants must be to provide treatment, not trauma,” Peters said. “Trained mental health officials responding to mental health emergencies is how we provide that treatment. The alternative is how we risk furthering trauma.”

In July of 2020, the federal government laid the groundwork for 988 to become the new easy-to-remember number to call in the event of a mental health emergency, working similar to 911. Peters’ law would require local governments to coordinate 911 and 988 services, with the goal of diverting people with mental or behavioral health needs toward community care and away from incarceration or improper hospitalization.

“When you call an emergency number for a mental health emergency, you should be able to get a trained mental health response, and starting today, you will,” Peters said.

Some local jurisdictions, such as Eugene, Ore., have implemented similar measures, but House Bill 2784 is the first state-wide measure of its kind in the country. It passed the General Assembly with no opposition, and will take effect Jan. 1, 2022.

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