Evanston C.A.R.E. Responders team to receive training from Oakton College

Evanston C.A.R.E. Responders team to receive training from Oakton College

Members of the Crisis Alternative Response Evanston team, or C.A.R.E., are set to begin training in mid-June through Oakton College’s workforce development program.

Evanston City Council approved allocating $400,000 to the program’s first phase in late February with the goal of minimizing police interactions with residents for non-emergency matters. Calls made to 911 will be assessed by dispatchers to determine if police or the C.A.R.E. team would be needed and the appropriate team will be dispatched.

During the first phase, C.A.R.E. responders will be expected to tackle nuisance issues including leaf blower violations, panhandling and well-being checks, among others.

“The City is dedicated to improving our response to calls by developing programs like the C.A.R.E. responder program,” said city Communications and Engagement Manager Cynthia Vargas. “This initiative aims to enhance mental health interventions, strengthen collaboration and communication with city residents, bolster community safety and establish a more interactive service and referral process for everyone involved.”

The training is designed to equip team members with tools and skills such as de-escalation and crisis intervention to help them better respond to the needs of residents. According to a news release from Oakton, training will take 28 hours over three weeks  alongside twice-weekly field training provided by the city. Both theoretical and practical training such as ride-alongs with other city crisis response teams will also be provided.

Oakton’s program includes seven topics that will be explored, including the criminal justice system/the state of mental health in America, cognitive behavioral therapy and substance use, cultural competency, de-escalation/conflict resolution, mediation/motivational interviewing, community resources and social determinants of health such as violence and trauma.

The Evanston police and fire departments have a role as well, providing a year of supplementary field training to teach responders how to properly administer Narcan, perform C.P.R. and other life-saving skills. Once all training is complete, team members will receive an Emergency Crisis Responder Program certificate from the college.

The initial cohort will consist of nine employees, with five CARE responders alongside designated employees from the city’s Parks and Recreation Outreach Team as backup responders and the department’s deputy director. Vargas stated members were chosen based on lived experience with the issues the team is designed to tackle.

“We are truly grateful for the partnership, which will undoubtedly pave the way for the success of our C.A.R.E. responder team. Our collaboration with Oakton College is vital, as they have committed to providing a curriculum that perfectly aligns with our team’s needs,” Director of Parks and Recreation Audrey Thompson said in Oakton’s news release. “As one of the pioneering cities in the Midwest to establish a program like the C.A.R.E. responder team, we are filled with optimism for the future.”

C.A.R.E. has not officially begun its work but training is expected to wrap up in mid-July.

Once available, the team can be reached seven days a week from 1 to 10 p.m. and can be contacted by calling 911, the city’s 311 line or the police non-emergency line at 847-866-5000.

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