NFL awards $200K to Chicago’s Crisis Assistance Response and Engagement team

The NFL’s social justice arm will help Chicago expand its mental health resources by 2023 through the Inspire Change Social Justice initiative. The deal said the Chicago Emergency Response and Response team will receive $200,000 from the organization.

The city’s CARE pilot program was launched last fall in an attempt to address minor mental illnesses through a disciplinary approach and more of a therapeutic approach, according to the licensed clinical social worker. Matthew Richards, CARE’s deputy commissioner for behavioral health. The effort will integrate mental health professionals into the 911 response system to help those experiencing behavioral disturbances — meaning police and social workers are working together to connect people. to treatment. When the CARE team responds to a person in crisis they provide de-escalation, mental health assessment, referrals to social services and transport to appropriate community settings. The CARE team conducts follow-ups with people in crisis one day, one week and one month after the crash.

After the program completed its first year, nearly 500 calls to 911 had a mental health or substance abuse component but no arrests were made. Richards is looking to use the NFL funding to expand CARE services on the West Side of the city and other parts of the city and add a second cycle to the existing groups it covers. between 10 am and 10 pm, when calls are at their highest.

“We’ve shown in the first year that you can take a health-forward approach to 911 calls and a mental health unit and connect people to mental health resources in the community,” he said. Richards. “We put mental health professionals in our 911 call center for one shift a day; we have three different care teams that answer 911 calls. One on the North Side, one on the South side, one to the Southwest side, in 10 community areas. The support of the NFL allows us to support the effort. We are grateful to the NFL’s social justice team to support the second year of implementation and help expand this program to new communities in Chicago.

The NFL’s social responsibility arm has been donating to nonprofits for the past five years, said Clare Graff, the NFL’s vice president of social responsibility. CARE is Chicago’s second recipient of the NFL’s social justice grant, behind Metropolitan Family Services’ Peace Academy, a recipient in previous years.

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The Inspire Change program supports community organizations focused on one of four pillars: education, economic development, police-community relations and criminal justice reform. Graff said that all of Inspire Change’s grant partners will fit into one, if not more, of those categories. He said police-community relations are where the NFL really wanted to make this budget change. A 10-person panel of owners/players makes the final decisions on the application-only application. The 2022 grant winners are: CARE, Atlanta Policing Alternatives & Diversion Initiative (PAD), Choose 180, Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services Community Assistance and Life Liaison Program (CALL), and Peace for DC.

“One thing I’m proud of about these grants is that they’re not limited to just NFL markets,” Graff said. “We really want to give dollars to the need for help. So you have the hyperlocal Alabama Appleseed on one side and the national Big Brothers Big Sisters on the other, they’re really in charge.

What about Graff and his corporate social responsibility team about CARE? Unlike many alternative models, CARE evaluates in real time, with real-time data, what is needed based on the nature of the 911 call. The data is evaluated by the University of Chicago’s Health Lab. Graff said CARE’s understanding of the data is still a work in progress, making CARE a viable candidate. “Knowing that the process is clear and seeing the data and established universities that are learning is very helpful,” he said.

Chicago's CARE project team includes Chicago Fire Department personnel and mental health professionals, seen here in December 2022, and is sent on a shuttle across the city to provide compassionate care to residents with mental illness.

“We really want to move to double our hours of operation, to expand to the West – East and West Garfield Park and Humboldt Park,” he said, and other surrounding community areas. in the city. “We’ve chosen communities that have a high volume of 911 calls and a behavioral health unit. We also think about justice — geographic, racial and ethnic. We want to touch the diversity of your city and hear the differences between these teams.

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CARE is looking to handle other types of calls. In the first year, the teams focused on non-violent calls where the person was not physically or verbally abusive, as well as calls related to mental health concerns in the public space rather than a private home. In the second year, Richards wants to start taking calls about suicide threats, where the presence of a weapon may not be known, or where the threat has been reported or violated. or public nuisance laws.

“Right now, we go to those calls if other response teams like the police and paramedics ask for our help, but 911 doesn’t send them directly,” he said. “We’re looking at other types of phones that we think these teams will really appreciate. We need to get permission from the EMS division of the Illinois Department of Health to expand the number of calls we want to make. Expanding the number of communities we are in so our residents can begin to touch and feel the difference these teams can make in their community.

The expansion coincides with the expansion of the Chicago Department of Public Health’s mental health network to the city, city-funded outpatient mental health services provided through a network of Trauma-Informed Centers of Care (TICC) of the city that includes community mental health centers, health certified by the government. centers, community-based organizations (CBOs) and CDPH mental health centers.

“Next month we’re going to fund a mental health center in one community center in the city of Chicago, all 77 community centers,” Richards said. “We are going this year to serve 60,000 residents. Because we fund all of these clinics through the health department, our care team can rely on our partners and clinics that we directly manage in the health department to provide resources and a place to We can take patients to a place where we can arrange follow-up. – preparation. Another big thing we’re doing is starting to raise money for different places, places where we can take a patient instead of them going to the emergency department or the police station. or

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He said the city is looking at a housing stabilization program that would buy a hotel and people experiencing homelessness and mental health and substance abuse issues could be turned into their own units, which could They receive the first treatment for six. months as they transition to permanent support facilities. A rehab center is another diversion that can take people who are severely intoxicated to a place where they can stay sober, where clinicians can engage them in substance abuse and try to linking to alcohol treatment services. Richards says CARE hopes to open two options in 2023.

“Because our work in this area is relatively new, we want to fund things that work on the one hand, and on the other hand, we really value creativity,” Graff said. “We like to grant funding wherever possible. So we try to be efficient. We try to leave room every year to bring in new recipients and to get rid of others who are already affiliated. with us for two years because we want to have an idea like geography, how many people an organization employs — all the things that a funder is looking for, and they’re looking for so do we. One of the beautiful parts of the system is that we want to bring those national organizations in the door, even if they may not be long-standing organizations.”

Since 2017, the NFL has given more than $244 million to more than 40 donor partners and 600-plus organizations across the country, close to its 10-year, $250 million commitment to social justice work. This includes more than 1,800 Inspire Change grant partnerships provided by the NFL Foundation to current NFL players for non-profits that help reduce barriers to participation.

“We’re very excited that the NFL is the person who funded us because we see what we’re doing to promote social justice in a healthy and safe environment, trying to improve the trust level of our residents. for the first responders who often respond to them during the most difficult times in the world,” said Richards.

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