Individuals in behavioral crisis frequently come into contact with law enforcement and other first responders. In Chicago, the study cite, emergency room visits for people experiencing psychiatric crisis increased by 19 percent between 2009 and 2012, and 32 percent of the roughly 14,000 homeless people on any given night in Illinois have a serious mental illness. Increasingly, police are often the first to respond to mental and behavioral health crises. Unfortunately, these encounters have a higher chance of escalating into a violent or otherwise harmful outcome than other emergency situation. In response to several high-profile, negative encounters between Chicago police and persons with mental illness, including the tragic police shooting of a young man experiencing a behavioral health (BH) crises, Chicago has committed to improving BH emergency response. The city is implementing several proactive interventions aimed a deescalating BH crises, including increasing the number of CIT-trained police officers and deploying co-mobile response teams. However, an ongoing challenge for agencies is determining which emergency calls have a BH component and therefore should be prioritized for tailored interventions like CIT and co-mobile teams. Additionally, without accurate baseline information, leaders cannot fully understand the impact of implementing such initiatives. The present project seeks to acquire and link retrospective administrative datasets from the three city agencies involved in emergency first response: Chicago Police Department, Chicago Fire Department and the Office of Emergency Management and Communication. Establishing an encompassing dataset will allow researchers to study BH response trends, including analyzing high utilizers and geographic hot spots, with the goal to equip agencies with information to proactively target scarce resources and monitor progress. We will also conduct stakeholder interviews regarding improved emergency responses at these locations. Finally, the research team ? in collaboration with the Advisory Council - will develop and assess the operational feasibility of a real-time predictive tool that would help identify BH emergencies for dispatchers. By incorporating multiple large administrative datasets, this predictive tool will capitalize on diverse sources of ?signal,? maximizing prediction accuracy. Development of these integrated data systems and support tools, and ongoing partnership among the research team and agency stakeholders promises to produce durable and generalizable improvements to Chicago's emergency response. Given Chicago's position as America's third-largest city, such uses of our already-existing data infrastructure has the potential to broadly influence other cities that face similar public safety challenges and possess similar fragmented administrative data structures. As such, we also seek to widely disseminate project findings throughout the policy and scientific communities, including publication in leading scientific journals and policymaker and media outreach.

Public Health Relevance

This project seeks to link three large, existing administrative datasets from Chicago Police Department (CPD), the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) to develop a cross-agency, integrated dataset to trace an emergency call from origination to final disposition within all responding agencies. In doing so, the project will identify trends among high-risk persons and high-risk locations that account for a disproportionate number of emergency-response events involving individuals in behavioral or mental health crisis, as well as provide the foundation to produce a predictive tool to better identify future emergencies. Though Chicago is our initial focus, we hope to articulate a well-mapped, transparent model generalizable to other cities working to serve this vulnerable population.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Mental Health Services Research Committee (SERV)
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Freed, Michael
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University of Chicago
Schools of Social Welfare/Work
United States
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