A huge number of cries for help during mental health crises in Evanston and nearby are no longer going to 9-1-1. There is a different phone number to call, and trained mental health clinicians, not police officers, are showing up.
The agency that runs FACT, (First-response Alternative Crisis Team) says the service received 3,954 calls in 2022, its first year of operation.
“Over 90% of FACT engagements happened without police/911 involvement,” according to Trilogy, Inc., the behavioral health organization that operates the mobile crisis intervention servie.
“If we can take some of the calls which used to go to 9-1-1, ” says Trilogy spokesperson Jeffrey Fenwick, “the police can focus more on what they need to do.”
The mental health crisis number is 1-800-FACT-400.
FACT responds to a variety of emergencies, including, according to Trilogy, psychosis/mania, depression/suicidal ideation, and anxiety.
In the service’s first year 23% of the calls came from Evanston. That’s the second highest number from the various communities served – Rogers Park, Edgewater, Uptown, and West Ridge, all in Chicago. Skokie and Evanston are the suburbs in the program.
The service, funded by the State of Illinois, operates 24 hours a day/7 days a week. It began by working half-days, until the staff of 19 clinicians could ramp up over the summer.
Not all of the calls require a mobile response from a two-person crisis team, and sometimes, the same person will call more than once.
Trilogy says there were 958 unduplicated callers in 2022, leading to 603 intial crisis mobilizations.
Once an in-person or phone contact is made, Trilogy also follows up to try to connect the individual to ongoing mental health services.
There are, of course, times when police are needed.
“We’re not doing this to undercut any law enforcement response,” Fenwick notes.
Plus, there are times when the police call FACT asking for a trained mental health response. About 10 percent of FACT calls come in that way, the agency says.
On Thursday there will be a public discussion of the FACT program, at Trilogy’s Rogers Park office, 1400 W. Greenleaf.
Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss and a representative of the Evanston Police Department will be among those on a panel.
Anyone can attend, but are asked to RSVP to info@TrilogyInc.org.
And in case you, a friend, or a family member are experiencing a mental health crisis and need immediate help in Evanston and nearby, remember: 1-800-FACT-400. Or, it is also possible to call the new, national mental health helpline, 9-8-8, and calls from this area can be routed to the local service if necessary.
The purpose behind the mobile crisis team is simple, Fenwick says.
“It’s saving lives.”
“It’s keeping people safe in their darkest moments, without having to go to the hospital.”
It’s good collaboration as well as an effective and helpful alternative. Thank you.
I have called Trilogy numerous times over the past year on behalf of individuals that appear to be experiencing mental crisis. These individuals are often aggressively panhandling, sleeping outside, performing bodily functions in public, threatening citizens, and creating a public nuisance.
Trilogy is extremely responsive and their staff is professional, caring, and in my view daring. I do see where their partnership with EPD can be effective in responding to certain incidents.
A concern is that there doesn’t appear to be an alternative plan if the individual in mental crisis refuses mental health support services or any other kind of help from Trilogy. They are simply left alone to continue the socially unacceptable behavior in public. Often they do end up committing a crime and getting arrested. But again, due to our legal system and constraints put on our police, they are released, only to play out this same cycle over and over.
I’m sure Trilogy has had many success stories out of these 4000 calls, however I hope they can develop a “plan B” so that both the individuals having a mental crisis get the help they need and Evanston residents and visitors can be safe and have a better quality of life.
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