At the March 22 City Council meeting, aldermen accepted the report from the Alternatives to 911 Subcommittee and directed staff to draft and issue a request for proposals for an Alternative to Emergency Response team.

The City’s Human Services Committee and the Alternatives to 911 Subcommittee presented a report at that meeting on their work of “researching and analyzing service models that offer a community-based Alternative Emergency Response program to supplement standard community policing and other emergency services.”

The report recommended that members of an alternative-to-emergency-response team include mental/behavioral health, substance abuse, and other non-emergency medical trained staff and would operate Citywide with both mobile and street outreach.

As envisioned, the program is not a “co-responder model,” the report said, “meaning staff will respond to appropriately identified calls without a police officer. Individuals who are in need of mental, behavioral or substance abuse emergency support will need an experienced professional to support them in crisis.” The response team will be available to respond to calls during the late afternoon/evening time frame from 3 to 11 p.m.

The subcommittee offered recommendations in six areas to service providers who are interested in working with the Alternative to Emergency Response team:

Staffing: There should be two clinically licensed professionals in mental/behavioral health and two community-based peer support staff with lived experience of mental and behavioral health and/or substance abuse and vast community knowledge.

Reporting: The team should provide quarterly reports to Health & Human Services Department and a monthly report to the Alternatives to Emergency Response Subcommittee.

Crisis Response Duty: The team will be dispatched to calls received through the City’s 911 and 311 numbers.

Cultural Competency and Language: At least one licensed member should be fluent in Spanish; ideally another would be fluent in a second language. Team members should have experience “working with diverse populations and understanding barriers (perceived or real) to accessing services; cultural stigmas around mental health.”

Training: Team members will participate in training around call responses and radio communications.

Community Education: The team will make an effort to educate the community and City staff on the different services this program will provide. The team should develop a strong relationship with the Evanston Police Department, the Evanston Fire Department, and community partners.

The current City budget has an allocation of $200,000 for an alternative-to-emergency-response team, and the report said the subcommittee will request additional funding from the City’s Mental Health Board. City staff will create and issue a request for proposals for alternative emergency response services.

The members of the subcommittee are Alderman Cicely Fleming, chair; Alderman Eleanor Revelle; Evangeline Semark, Resident, Survivor of Violent Crime; Maureen McDonnell, MPH – Executive Director, PEER Services; Kristen Kennard, LCSW – Director of Social Work Services, Moran Center; Patti Capouch, MSW, Executive Director, Impact Behavioral Health; James Barnett, MSW, Community Programs Manager, Connections for the Homeless; and Angela Valavanis, Resident, Small Business Owner. Deputy Police Chief Aretha Barnes and Human Services Manager Indira Perkins serve as staff to the subcommittee.

Protests to defund the Evanston Police Department that began over the summer continued on April 18.


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