Crisis Response Campaign

In the city of Chicago, the Chicago police officers are the primary responders to mental health crises. Unfortunately, when the police are called, their presence results in an escalation of the crisis and increases the risk of violence that can result in tragic consequences of violence and trauma rather than healing.


Mental health crises are a symptom of decades of divestment in mental health services:

  • The mental health of communities of color is suffering due to the trauma of systemic disinvestment, lack of nearby available services, and service costs.

  • Non-profit providers do not have capacity to meet service demands.

  • In 2012, the city of Chicago closed half of the public mental health clinics, only 5 clinics remain.

  • Over three quarters of the city’s population live in communities that have less than 0.2 therapists per 1,000 community residents. Less than one quarter live in areas of the city with over 4 therapists per 1,000 community residents.

  • Inequity in mental health access means mental health needs go unaddressed until they reach a point of crisis.


To address this problem, the CCW has initiated a campaign to demand that the city of Chicago fund a public mental health crisis response and care system by:

  • Establishing a 24-hour 211 hotline to connect people with crisis response units, building on the existing capacity of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) five public mental health clinics to prevent and respond to crisis situations.

  • Developing teams of social workers and paramedics who will respond to crises (instead of police) within the community and connect people to ongoing support through CDPH clinics to address social and mental health needs. This program would be similar to programs that already exist in other cities.



Sustainability - these services must be part of the public infrastructure to ensure long-term sustainability. We cannot rely on short-term grant funds to non-profit providers to deliver these services.


Quality - making the services public means investing in building a high quality long-term workforce of crisis intervention workers, paying a living wage, in order to avoid burnout and high turnover common in non-profits.


Accountability and Transparency - housing these services through the Chicago Department of Public Health allows the public to have oversight and access data on the impact of these services. Public mental health centers shall include public oversight through community advisory councils to be created at each center.


One study conducted in Chicago found that Crisis Intervention Team trained police officers DO NOT use less force than police officers who have not been trained.* The sole reliance of police to respond to mental health crises has led to Cook County Jail becoming the largest mental health provider in the U.S.*


*Melissa S. Morabito et al., (2012) Crisis Intervention Teams and People With Mental Illness: Exploring the Factors That Influence the Use of Force, Crime & Delinq. 57, 58. Ford, M. (2015, June 8) America's Largest Mental Health Hospital is a Jail. The Atlantic. Retrieved from


Want to help spread the word about the campaign? Head over to our toolkit to get access to talking points, graphics, and hashtags used.

You can find our toolkit here

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