Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and leaders with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Chicago want state funding restored for law enforcement mental health training.
They urged Gov. Bruce Rauner and state lawmakers on Wednesday to reinstate funding for Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, which was frozen after the state entered the new fiscal year on July 1 without an agreed-upon budget.
CIT training programs teach law enforcement personnel how to handle crisis situations, including encounters with people with mental illness. The programs provide training on, among other things, how to steer non-violent invididuals experiencing a mental health crisis into treatment, rather than jail.
“Crimes such as breaking into an abandoned home to sleep, stealing candy bars to subdue hunger, buying drugs to self-medicate for mental illness – these are acts that generally reflect the need for help, not incarceration. And it takes officers who are properly trained to handle individuals experiencing a mental health crisis, with the realization that incarceration is substantially more expensive than diversion and treatment,” Dart said in a statement. “For every officer denied access to CIT training, we’re catalyzing Illinois’ descent into fiscal insolvency and solidifying our reliance on incarceration.”
NAMI Chicago Executive Director Alexa James added, “Further delay is unacceptable, because it means incarceration will rise for individuals living with mental illness. We call upon on the governor and the General Assembly to use the revenue solutions at their disposal to solve the budget crisis and to pass a fully funded yearlong budget.”