Winnebago County cops added social workers to the team and the approach is working, sheriff says

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Winnebago County Sheriff Gary Caruana says a recently launched plan, to give resource those struggling with mental health issues rather than throwing them in jail, is working.

The Crisis Co-Response (CCR) team was developed last year in the aftermath of several high profile police-involved shootings nationwide.

Monday night, the Rockford City Council is set to approve a $2 million grant which will help bring more team members onboard.

The funds will be used to bring in 4 fully licensed officers, 2 sheriff’s deputies, 1 Loves Park Police officers, and 7 social workers from mental health provider, Rosecrance.

The team will grow from its current 5 members to 14.

The program was designed to help law enforcement cope with individuals who are mental health patients, to minimize the chances of incarceration.

“They do a lot of different things and we find now that they’re becoming more familiar in the community people are reaching out them for things we never anticipated for them to do,” said Erica Gilmore, director of Rosecrance Mulberry Center, 605 Mulberry St.

Sheriff Caruana said of the program, “It’s really cutting edge and proactive on the mental health issue, and we don’t leave these folks, when they’re having a crisis, to just end up going to jail. We’re hoping, and it looks like it’s going down this road, we’re so proactive that we don’t get to that crisis situation.”

Caruana cited an example: “This man had an episode and tore his house [apart.] They called me and I was able to refer them to the CCR team, and they’re working with him. I know he was at Swedes and now they’re working with him, so that’s just a small example of what we can do.”

Both Caruana and Gilmore says there’s always more room for the program to expand.

“I think it exceeded what we anticipated it would be,” Gilmore said. “We had no idea how they were going to be involved and how it was going to evolve, and it’s a scope of what we can do with this program, because it’s definitely grown in a positive way.”

Rosecrance says they hope the program can expand to become a 24 hour service.

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