A newly-created team consisting of multiple Lake County police departments and social workers helping with crisis outreach handled over 1,000 requests in its first year.
The multi-agency Crisis Outreach and Support Team (COaST) initiative launched in January 2022.
It consists of members from the Gurnee Police Department, Lake Forest Police Department, Libertyville Police Department, Lincolnshire Police Department, Mundelein Police Department, Vernon Hills Police Department and Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
A police officer from one of the local agencies and a sheriff’s deputy from the sheriff’s office partner with a social worker, clinician or peer specialist to respond to mental health-related calls.
COaST has responded to dozens of mental health calls in progress, Lake County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Christopher Covelli said.
Trained professionals were deployed at the scene, spending as much time as necessary with the person in crisis and allowing the first responding deputies or police officers to return to emergency calls for service.
Covelli said one of the many examples of COaST’s success occurred this year when the team responded to a call in progress of a teen with autism who was behaving aggressively.
The COaST clinician and accompanying officer were able to spend a substantial amount of time with the teen and the teen’s mother.
This allowed the local police agency to return to routine calls for service.
COaST was able to calm the teen, provide therapeutic techniques to help the mother and offer services to the mother for her own mental care, Covelli said.
When not responding to mental health calls in progress, COaST conducts resource visits with individuals who had prior interaction with law enforcement.
Police who interact with someone they feel could use follow-up services submit a request to COaST, prompting those visits.
1,559 requests have been made to COaST from all of the partner agencies since January 2022.
Of those 1,559 requests, COaST successfully contacted 1,164 of the individuals. COaST was able to offer a wide variety of assistance to all of those they made contact with.
Mundelein Chief of Police John Monahan said the program has been an invaluable resource for residents and a “terrific tool” for officers.
“Our agency has experienced several successful interventions because COaST offers prompt responses and comprehensive service options for those in crisis. Another benefit to the department is the knowledge, skills, experience, and additional resources that participating officers have brought back and passed on to their colleagues,” Monahan said.
Covelli said one of the many examples of a successful follow-up occurred when COaST followed up with a mother whose juvenile son was recently hospitalized for a suicide threat.
The COaST officer and clinician were able to provide a number of resources to the mother along with structured steps to take with her son upon his discharge from the hospital.
The mother was grateful and continued following up with COaST to inform the team of her son’s improvements, Covelli said.
“As we planned and established this multi-agency, multi-disciplinary team, we felt it would be a huge benefit to Lake County. After one year, we can now see what we envisioned became a true,” Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg said.
“Lives have undoubtedly been saved and changed for the better due to the hard-working, dedicated members of this team. I am extraordinarily proud of our multi-agency collaboration and everyone who serves in the COaST program,” Idleburg said.
Lincolnshire Chief of Police Joe Leonas said COaST has “proven to be an invaluable resource.”
“We have been able to take a holistic approach to aiding those in mental distress by providing options and services, as opposed to taking enforcement action. The positive feedback and success stories we continually receive from families have shown the true value of our partnership, and the Village of Lincolnshire is proud to be a founding member,” Leonas said.
COaST is supported in part by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the sheriff’s office said.
Gurnee Chief of Police Brian Smith said the collaborative alliance between the police and mental health workers allows for protection and support for individuals and families in crisis.
“The positive impact this program has had in our community, and on our officers, has exceeded our expectations. The Gurnee Police Department remains dedicated to continuing our contribution to COaST by offering assistance and improving access to care for those experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis,” Smith said.