Cook County Sheriff’s Office hits the front lines of mental health treatment in downtown River North

Chicago (CBS) – Have you noticed more officers and cruisers in Chicago’s Cook County? There is a reason for that.

On Day Two only, we get a first-hand look at the street outreach work that the mayor’s office is doing downtown.

CBS 2’s Tara Molina walked into town with Treatment response team (TRT) Wednesday. The team focuses on connecting people on the street with resources.

It’s a proactive police effort amid rising crime across the downtown area. The mayor’s office has teams of police and doctors who respond to cases when they need someone A new command center in the North River districtOr, walk the neighborhood and meet people wherever they are.

“A lot of doctors aren’t as down to earth as we are, actually,” said clinical doctor in Sheriff’s Office Patrick Kelly.

rain, sun, cold or heat; The crew, nicknamed the “treatment response team” downtown, walks into the neighborhood and conducts outreach on the street.

“A lot of the people we work with don’t have phones, they don’t have addresses, so the only way we can get in touch with them is to continue to be here, and give that support and help,” Kelly said.

Kelly has a background in criminal justice and mental health counseling. He’s not a police officer, he’s a therapist.

A team of therapists and police officers began working together on the North River just two months ago.

“When they are in crisis, they need someone to talk to, and what better person for them to talk to than a therapist?” Kelly said.

the difference? They keep these conversations going after responding to an incident or crime; And when they hit the sidewalk three days a week, they make sure to talk to the people constantly watching on the street.

They provide assistance to those experiencing homelessness, mental health problems, or substance abuse problems. They are in a position to connect them with housing and treatment options.

“This is all about being on the front end of things,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

According to Dart, more than half of the people in the Cook County Jail have psychological problems.

This business, he said, is not just about working to change that, and provide people with the help they need, but to prevent it from going that far in the first place.

“If we got to them now, they wouldn’t be there probably stealing someone because they need to feed their habit. They wouldn’t steal something from a store because they lost their job,” he said.

They work in the River North and downtown areas, Dart said, because “we’ve never seen greater needs than ever.”

“It’s not even a close call,” he said. “Here I was walking in the area and it was very difficult – having to address mental health, the homeless, substance abuse. We ran into someone with block after block.”

Dart said the program is a proactive effort to prevent problems we’ve seen simmering downtown in the past.

“For people with a mental health and substance abuse problem, they happen together all the time, and a simple interaction with someone who is not doing well at that moment escalates really quickly. What might it be that someone asks for a handout of some nature can lead to A physical confrontation. And things quickly derail.”

The treatment response team is here to stay.

“We’ll do whatever we can to help,” Kelly said.

Last week, the team engaged 17 people during outreach, distributed 5 sets of Narcan to treat opioid overdoses, and met with six companies. Two people from that week are actively involved with the team’s crew to help with mental health or substance abuse.

Overall, the team currently works with more than 200 clients, including people who receive services through the “Virtual Shared Responder Program,” which allows on-site officers to contact a TRT physician using a tablet or smartphone to help someone in crisis.