SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Peoria would be one of the first communities in the state to participate in a Co-Responder Pilot Program under a plan passed Tuesday by state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, as part of efforts to better connect violence victims and witnesses with resources.
“It’s easy for us to tell residents to come forward to police if they see something, but it ignores the very real threat of retaliation and other challenges,” Gordon-Booth said. “This plan doesn’t just assist with safely relocating individuals, it begins the process of partnering police units with behavioral health specialists who can coordinate counseling, trauma-informed crisis intervention and other social services with victims.”
“As law enforcement officers we do not have the luxury to say no we are not responding,” Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria said. “We need to respond to calls for service that include those experiencing a mental or behavior health crisis. However, we need to have the correct tools and people in place to respond appropriately. Whether that means we respond with a mental health worker, and they take over the call, or we have to contain, and deescalate the situation first, we need to make sure we get people the help they need versus incarceration. The co-responder program will provide the mechanism to have long term solutions in place for long term issues, while providing help for those that need it most in our community.”
Gordon-Booth’s bipartisan-supported House Bill 1095:
- Establishes the Co-Responder Pilot Program at police departments in East St. Louis, Peoria, Springfield and Waukegan. Focused on behavioral health, these units would be tasked with helping to coordinate social services with violence survivors, including trauma-informed crisis intervention, assistance with finding safe housing, victim advocacy and counseling.
- Provides that the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority (ICJIA) shall establish and administer a program to assist victims and witnesses of violent crimes – including help with temporary living costs, moving expenses, rent, security deposits and other appropriate relocation expenses.
- Requires all Illinois State Police homicide investigator training to include instruction on victim-centered, trauma-informed investigation no later than July 1, 2023.
Gordon-Booth also supported measures this week that focus on first responder mental health (House Bill 1321), assist with first responder daycare needs (House Bill 1571), target carjackers (House Bill 1100), help with law enforcement recruitment (House Bill 1568) and increase the use of highway security cameras (House Bill 1103).
“As the lead for the House Public Safety Working Group, I’ve had the opportunity to work directly with a number of local and statewide stakeholders on recommendations to comprehensively address violence both short and long-term,” Gordon-Booth said. “Recognizing that behavioral health is a core component of public safety, I’m encouraged to see us moving forward – particularly here in Peoria – to implement a new co-responder program that is going to help a lot of families.”