SPRINGFIELD, IL —A legislative initiative of Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart that would require sworn law enforcement personnel to receive mental health awareness and response training has been signed into law.
House Bill 375, also known as” Sam’s Act”, will add an introductory course on mental health to the state’s mandated police training core curriculum. The bill, which was sponsored by Rep. Laura Fine (D-17th District) in the House, and Sen. Heather Steans (D-7th District) in the Senate, was passed unanimously by both the Illinois House and Senate this spring.
HB 375, now PA 100-0247, was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Aug. 22 and will take effect on Jan. 1, 2018.
The new law will raise mental health awareness and response training, help identify signs and symptoms of mental illness, depict scenarios of potential interactions between law enforcement and the afflicted and provide de-escalation techniques for crisis situations.
To increase accessibility to the training for new and current officers, and to assist law enforcement agencies with administrative training costs and growing wait lists, the new law will also permit the introductory course, where possible, to be made available in both the traditional setting as well as in an electronic format.
Any incurred implementation costs will be absorbed by the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board who oversees core curriculum content.
Proponents of the bill include Sheriff Tom Dart and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, the Illinois Law Enforcement Training Standards Board (ILETSB), the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the Illinois Sheriffs’ Association, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Illinois Campus Law Enforcement Administrators Association (ICLEA).
This is the second legislative measure this year championed by Sheriff Dart addressing mental health issues in the criminal justice system that has become law. Earlier this month, the governor signed HB 649, which reduces delays in placing jail individuals in custody with serious mental illnesses into state facilities for treatment.