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Treatment Response Team

The Treatment Response Team (TRT) began in June 2019 to bridge the gap in services for those seeking treatment for overdoses. Its mission was to reduce the impact of substance abuse in Cook County and has now been expanded to addressing mental health issues in the community.

The TRT combines law enforcement resources with assistance from Licensed Clinical Social Workers to direct people to harm-reduction and treatment services for those suffering from a substance use and mental health disorders. TRT receives reports on recent overdoses from the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to identify individuals who may need services.  Most of these referrals come from Cook County Sheriff’s Police Officers, but some potential clients have been identified through court proceedings and the Department of Corrections.

In addition, it identifies clients by monitoring drug trafficking areas designated by HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) and the overdose tracking tool ODMAP, which further enhances collaboration with other law enforcement agencies. TRT also conducts outreach to areas reporting high numbers of overdoses.

The TRT can receive referrals from community members and, after initial contact with someone in need, provide naloxone, overdose-prevention training, and treatment materials. Afterward, it follows up by regularly checking in with each individual in a variety of ways including texting, social media, telehealth services and face-to-face contact.  Our goal is to assist those who voluntarily want treatment outside of the criminal justice system. Our team of experts does extensive outreach to locate these individuals and their families to help get people into treatment when they are willing.

The relationship between mental health and the criminal justice system is often not a positive one. We seek to break that negative cycle by helping those experiencing a mental health crisis avoid interaction with the criminal justice system, and by helping those already involved in the criminal justice system connect with resources once they return to the community.

The TRT’s model is predicated on building trust with the communities we serve. The interdisciplinary team of professionals have extensive experience and training in law enforcement, substance abuse and mental health treatment. The clinicians work to address their client’s concerns through individual counseling and individualized case management.

The outreach follows two avenues:

  1. Following up on non-fatal overdoses in our communities.  Whenever Sheriff’s Police respond to an overdose, they forward information about the victim to the TRT. TRT’s clinicians and social workers follow up with each victim, as well as their support systems (family, significant others, etc.) to help the victim navigate the pathway to recovery.
  2. Direct outreach in hotspot areas of Chicago’s West Side and the suburbs, including homeless encampments, shelters, motels, and trailer parks. TRT members provide Naloxone to those living in areas with a high instance of substance abuse and contact information to those they think will be receptive to treatment.

In October 2020, we received a Comprehensive Law Enforcement Response to Drugs grant which lasts through September 2021. Through this grant we have been able to: Provide transportation via Uber for clients to receive mental health and substance abuse treatment and provide UberEATS gifts cards to families in need. We have also used this grant to provide officers co-responder deflection education and training.  This training educates officers with signs and symptoms of addiction and mental illness. Officers also learn to recognize and respond to symptoms of burnout.

As of January, 2021 the TRT secured (grant funded) tablets to be used by Sheriff’s Police when responding to a 911 service call. TRT clinicians are available 24/7 to assist any individual under mental duress. Sheriff’s Police can initiate a face-to-face Zoom session between a TRT clinician and an individual under duress.  The TRT Co-responder model offers the police and the community they serve to include a mental health professional when needed. The TRT clinician has a chance to assess and connect individuals to treatment and resources immediately. The tablets provide a safe, quick and cost-effective solution for individuals under mental duress who might benefit from speaking to a mental health professional. Crisis intervention can now be performed by social workers and trained CIT officers to ensure individuals who are involved in a service call have access to treatment services and emergency counseling.