News Article Details

Aurora may give emergency mental health agency police station office

The Beacon-News - 11/9/2018

Nov. 09--Aurora could give office space to a mental health agency to allow it to better respond to emergencies in the Aurora area.

Aldermen are set to vote on an agreement between the city, the Aurora Police Department and Family Service Association of Greater Elgin to provide community-based mental health services to Aurora youths and their families.

The agreement would allow the Police Department to give office space at the public safety building to Family Service Association, which would allow them quicker responses to emergencies that deal with mental health issues.

"If we get a domestic call in the middle of the night, and somebody is out of control, we take them to jail," said Officer Doug Rashkow, who is part of the Police Department's Crisis Intervention Negotiation Team. "But jail might be the right place for them. We can call (the association) and they can come in, in the middle of the night, and give a placement screening to send the person to the right place."

Rashkow spoke to aldermen this week at the committee of the whole meeting. Alderman are set to vote on the prospective agreement at the regular council meeting at 6 p.m.Nov. 13 in the council chambers, City Hall, 44 E. Downer Place.

Family Service Association is the organization that administers a little-known state program known as SASS, which stands for Screening Assessment and Support Service, which has been in existence since 2004. It is designed around the idea that sometimes a mental health professional should be at the scene of an emergency along with emergency responders, such as police and fire.

The SASS program allows mental health providers to make an on-the-spot assessment and get someone help right away, instead of police having to deal with the situation.

"We are essentially avoiding the emergency room," said Janeth Barba, Clinical Services director for Family Service Association. "We can do an assessment, do a direct placement."

Barba said last year the organization was involved with 2,000 mental health emergency calls and "our numbers continue to rise." She said the organization has done 235 assessments this month alone.

Barba said because Family Service Association administers SASS for the state in Kane and Kendall counties, it already is serving Aurora. It has worked a number of times with both the East and West school districts, as well as Mercy Center and Rush-Copley medical centers. But having an office at the Aurora Police Department will allow the agency to respond quicker -- within 90 minutes of an incident, she said.

"There is a high need here, and we're already here," she said.

Rashkow said the agreement would allow the agency "to serve more in our community."

"We have a ready-made space for them," Rashkow said. "We can work with together without any additional cost factors."

slord@tribpub.com

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