(The Center Square) – The new budget Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed sweeps $5 million out of the statewide 9-1-1 fund to start up a new number for mental health emergencies, which police chiefs say could put federal funding in jeopardy.
The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police (ILACP) say the sweep was done without the knowledge of law enforcement groups and they have concerns about negative consequences to local 911 operations around the state.
The budget package lawmakers approved in the early morning hours on the final day of session earlier this month creates the Statewide 9-8-8 Trust Fund.
The Department of Human Services will use the fund to establish and maintain a suicide prevention and mental health crisis system.
To fund the new 9-8-8 program, the budget transfers $5 million from the Statewide 9-1-1 Fund.
The latest numbers from the Illinois Comptroller’s website show the Statewide 9-1-1 Fund has $81.6 million and is administered by Illinois State Police.
“The sweep of $5 million was done without the knowledge of law enforcement,” the ILACP said in a statement this week.
“We are in close communication with the Illinois State Police and others about this to determine what our next best steps will be to protect our 911 centers and to make sure Illinois does not suffer any consequences from the feds by sweeping 911 funds,” the statement.
Pritzker was asked about the fund sweep this week. Despite signing the budget, he was not aware of the exact details.
“I can’t speak to it specifically, because I haven’t looked at that, but the 988 number that we’re establishing and we’re launching does take an enormous burden off our police, these are for mental health calls,” Pritzker said.
The police chiefs are asking the state to postpone the sweep and for lawmakers to amend that provision of the budget when they return to the state capitol after the November election.
The Statewide 9-1-1 Fund is derived from surcharges on phone bills consumers pay.
The ILACP said they intended to ask the governor to line-item veto that portion of the budget, but it is too late.
Reducing the fund could make the state ineligible for federal grants at a time when next-generation 9-1-1 operations ramp up, the chiefs said.
The 9-8-8 number is scheduled to roll out in July. Pritzker defended the creation of a new emergency number focused on mental health emergencies.
“That otherwise you would end up with a police officer and sometimes tragedy has resulted from that,” Pritzker said.
“We want to differentiate between a mental health need that’s an emergency and a 911 crime-related emergency,” he said.