All 911 city dispatchers now trained in mental health awareness

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Sun-Times file photo

All 911 call takers and dispatchers in Chicago have completed mental heath awareness and de-escalation training.

The eight-hour training course helps call takers and dispatchers identify 911 calls that warrant a crisis-intervention trained officer.

“Oftentimes, 911 call takers and dispatchers are the front lines of emergency response, and we want to ensure that we are delivering the highest quality service both to residents and first responders,” Office of Emergency Management and Communications Executive Director Alicia Tate-Nadeau said in a statement issued Sunday by Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office.

“As a result of this training, our 911 Operations staff now has the tools they need to help identify a mental health related call and ensure the proper resources are dispatched to help individuals with mental illness.”

Lt. Antoinette Ursitti, a 16-year department veteran, has been appointed to lead the Criss Response Unit.

In 2016, there were nearly five times as many CIT-identified events as in 2015 as a result of the new training and enhancements to the computer-aided dispatch system, the mayor’s office said.

The training was developed by the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications in collaboration with the Chicago Police Department and the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago.

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