In recent weeks the impact of stigma and untreated mental illness and addiction have become painfully visible in the City of Chicago, with first responders on the front lines. The gaps in understanding about how to recognize and address behavioral health issues and imbedded systemic stigma has challenged one of government’s most important responsibilities: to protect us and keep us safe. All of us.
Addressing this stigma is central to the mission of The Kennedy Forum. For this reason, we have convened leaders, experts and community members to work with the City to address this crisis urgently. Earlier this month, The Kennedy Forum brought key stakeholders and experts to meet with the Mayor’s Office, providing clear recommendations outlining immediate actions needed to quickly improve and expand the training and preparedness of Chicago Police Department (CPD) officers and Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC). The Mayor subsequently formed a Citywide Mental Health Response Steering Committee as a mechanism to continue working with us and identify additional stakeholders, identifying workgroups to address specific areas of focus, including better data collection, training, and connection to appropriate care. The Kennedy Forum and its partners, including NAMI-Chicago, Thresholds, The University of Illinois at Chicago, Presence Health, Sinai Health System and others are actively engaged with the City and CPD via this process.
Today the Mayor has announced some of these next steps, consistent with our recommendations. The full announcement is available here.
There is more to be done. Our work will continue in earnest in the many months to come. In addition to providing technical assistance to the City, The Kennedy Forum will be working to convene discussions in our community this winter and spring, engaging stakeholders including families and community members, CPD and OEMC staff, and behavioral health providers. Many of these conversations will take place through our annual participation in the Chicago Community Trust’s On the Table civic engagement initiative on May 10 (See last year’s successful “100 Conversations”). More information will be distributed in the coming weeks about these conversations, how to host and how to participate. If you are interested in hosting a conversation or learning more, please let us know here, and we will follow up with you.
While this intense effort to serve the City in this manner could not have been predicted last November, we are gratified that our standing with the City and ability to convene stakeholders is providing valuable support at this critical time. Our first responders need our support. With strong leadership, expanded training, effective tools, more options to connect people to appropriate services, we can help to change the story in our City. The Kennedy Forum was founded on the idea that uniting the community around shared goals can make a difference in the lives of so many with mental illness and addiction. In our work to provide needed support to the City of Chicago now, the Kennedy Forum is acting on its mission.
Download The Kennedy Forum Illinois Recommendations (1/4/2016):