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Chicago Police Will Now Get Free Mental Health Care, City Says

A pilot program will use data to identify officers most in need of help. The program is part of the mayor's reforms to build trust between officers and neighbors.

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Isadora Ruyter-Harcourt/Flickr
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CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Department is trying to better reach out to officers who may need mental health support as the department has seen a surge in suicides in recent years.

The department’s Officer Support System pilot program launches Tuesday. The program uses data to identify officers “who may be in need of additional support” and helps create a process to provide services to those officers, according to the Mayor’s Office. The program is meant to proactively help officers.

Another new program, the Officer Wellness Telehealth Pilot, will give free mental health services to all officers, according to the Mayor’s Office. The services will be provided by experts who specialize in working with police.

“The goal of this system is to reduce the occurrence of adverse events that may harm officers, Chicagoans or the public’s trust in the Chicago Police Department,” according to the Mayor’s Office.

The renewed focus on supporting officers’ mental health comes amid a spike in suicides in the department. At least nine officers have died by suicide in the last two years. Among them was Dion Boyd, a deputy chief who killed himself at a police station just days after being promoted in July.

The Department of Justice found Chicago officers commit suicide 60 percent more often than those in other departments.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot vowed in early June — as the city was seeing mass looting and vandalism after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis — to carry out a series of reforms within 90 days.

Among the reforms would be “implementing a real officer wellness program and completing the Officer Support System/Early Intervention System pilot that provides support for officers in crisis, improving our peer support program and providing counselors to those in need,” she said at the time.

The Mayor’s Office said Tuesday’s announcements marked an end to the 90-day period, as well as the “final completion” of the reforms Lightfoot promised.

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