Cook County Sheriff’s Office is at the forefront of mental health treatment in River North, downtown

CHICAGO (CBS) – Have you noticed more Cook County Sheriff’s Officers and Cruisers in Chicago? There is a reason for this.

Only at 2 do we see first hand the work on the street that the sheriff’s office does in the center.

Tara Molina of CBS 2 took a walk around town with the Treatment Response Team (TRT) on Wednesday. The team focuses on connecting people on the street with resources.

This is a proactive police effort amid rising crime in the city center. The sheriff’s office has teams of police and clinicians who respond to problems when they need to, from their new command post in the River North neighborhood or walking around the neighborhood and meeting with people wherever they are.

“In fact, many clinicians are out of place,” said Sheriff’s clinician Patrick Kelly.

Rain, sun, coolness or heat; the crew, called the Treatment Response Team, is in the center of the neighborhood, walking the streets.

“A lot of the people we work with don’t have phones, they don’t have addresses, so really the only way to contact them is to keep being here and provide that support and help,” Kelly said.

Kelly has experience in criminal justice and mental health counseling. He is not a policeman, he is a therapist.

A team of therapists and police officers began working together in River North just a few months ago.

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

The difference? They maintain these conversations after responding to an incident or crime; and when they go out on the sidewalk three days a week, they don’t forget to talk to people who are constantly seen on the street.

They offer help for those struggling with homelessness, mental health problems or substance abuse problems. They are located so as to connect them with accommodation and treatment options.

“It’s all about being at the forefront,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Darth.

More than half of the people in Cook County Jail have mental health problems, according to Dart.

He said that this job is not only to work to change that and get people the help they need, but also to prevent it from going so far in the first place.

“If we get to them now, they won’t be there, maybe they’ll rob someone because they have to feed their habit. They won’t steal something from a store because they lost their job,” he said.

Darth said they work in the North and downtown areas because “we’ve never seen greater needs.”

“It’s not even a close call,” he said. “I was down here walking around the area and it was so amazing – the need to pay attention to the mental health of the homeless and drug abuse. Block after block, we came across someone who was suffering.

Darth said the program was a proactive effort to prevent problems we’ve seen at the center in the past.

“For people who have a problem with mental health and drug abuse, they meet together all the time, a minor interaction with someone who is not doing well at the moment escalates very quickly. some nature can lead to physical confrontation. “Things are getting off track quickly,” he said.

The treatment response team is here to stay.

“We will do what we can to help,” Kelly said.

Last week, the team engaged 17 people during their work, distributed 5 sets of Narcan for opioid overdose treatment and met with six companies. Two people this week are actively involved with the mental health or substance use team.

In total, the team currently works with more than 200 clients, including people receiving services through a “virtual assistance program” that allows on-site staff to contact a TRT clinician using a tablet or smartphone to help someone in Crisis.

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