Not every 911 call needs a police response. After calls and demonstrations to “defund” police – meaning reallocate some “law-and-order” funds to social services – here and across the country, many municipal authorities are rethinking how to protect the public from violence both from antisocial acts and from unnecessarily aggressive policing.

The City has already taken two steps in this direction by creating an Alternative Emergency Response Subcommittee and allocating $200,000 in the upcoming budget for an alternative emergency response team.

The Alternative Emergency Response Subcommittee, a subcommittee of the City Council’s Human Services Committee, chaired by Ninth Ward Alderman Cicely Fleming, meets at 3:30 on Tuesdays via Zoom to consider alternatives to sending police officers only to respond to emergencies in the community. The charge to the Alternatives to Emergency Response Subcommittee is to develop “a non-police response to members of the community who are in need of immediate support (not including life-saving medical situations). “

To do this, the members will review programs around the country, developing response protocols, develop staff qualifications and an ideal schedule and recommend a program, including its likely cost, to City Council.

In addition, this subcommittee will continue to convene to review program implementation, track progress, review outcomes, and make necessary recommendations for program adjustments and long term adoption.

The subcommittee at present is reviewing the types of emergency response resources presently available and the training offered to those who provide those services.

As an example, representatives from AMITA Behavioral Health [Saint Francis Hospital] recently spoke to the committee about the services it provides, such as a 24-hour crisis hotline (708-681-4357), and funding for a social worker at the Evanston Public Library. The manager of AMITA Health outpatient behavioral health clinic continues to offer free services in Spanish to the Latinx community during this pandemic, including zoom meetings, according to the information.

In partnership with the Evanston Fire Department, AMITA last year launched ECHO, Evanston Community Health Outreach, a mobile integrated healthcare program designed to provide individuals at high risk for hospital readmission with free in-home medical visits, health education, social service referrals, home safety inspections, and other support resources.

Subcommittee members, in addition to Ald. Fleming are Seventh Ward Alderman Eleanor Revelle, Evangeline Semark, Maureen McDonnell, Kristen Kennard, Patti Capouch and James Barnett. Staff liaisons are Human Services Manager Indira Perkins and Deputy Police Chief Aretha Barnes.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...