Trauma in the Neighborhoods: The Solution Isn’t Police Training

The US Department of Health and Human Services has given Chicago 1 million dollars to address “trauma” in its neighborhoods.

But it seems like most of the money will go to training cops. The grant will:

* Establish a Chicago ReCAST (Resiliency in Communities After Stress and Trauma), Institute to design and deliver trauma-informed training to staff from City agencies and partners organizations as well as residents, building greater capacity in neighborhoods most impacted by violence on how to identify, respond and support recovery from to various forms of trauma.
* Expand the Chicago Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team training, mental health awareness training for Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC) call takers and dispatchers, a public awareness campaign to reduce mental health stigma and public awareness of CIT and other resources. As a result, more than 12,000 Chicago police officers and all OEMC 911 call takers and dispatchers will receive basic mental health and trauma training.
* Support, train and link leaders from communities most vulnerable to civil unrest to ensure local involvement and feedback in citywide transformation efforts.
* Implement, launch and promote Chicago Connects, a comprehensive resource directory, crisis text line and web application to improve community organizations’ and residents’ access to necessary services.

It may be that the ReCAST Institute and training community leaders will do good work, and CIT Team Training is fine if its accompanied with system-wide cultural change. But this is also affirming that law enforcement is the appropriate place to center mental health crisis response. In the long term, we need to do something else.

I believe that budgets control agendas. When we put money tangling up these different things, we build institutional structures that are very, very, hard to change in the future. Moreover, I just wonder where’s the investment in mental health centers, which, you’ll recall, Rahm Emmanuel closed years ago. I wonder how much of the million dollars is going to police training and how much to community.

I spoke to Leroy Moore – one of the absolutely most important leaders on this issue – recently about CIT Training and he said to me, “Training has been around since 1989 with the Memphis plan …
it’s the same story, it’s increased. What I say, and many other people say, we have to switch the focus
from police to community. Switching that money to community service, to health
service, to alternative phone number [to 911 for mental health calls]

Again, CIT is fine, but it’s the medical model to solving a problem related to disability.

We need social model solutions.

Expect tens of thousands more words on that to come (i.e. my book and many future pieces).

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