DIXON – Think of it as Safe Passage for the mentally ill.
Dixon Police, Lee County Sheriff, Sinnissippi Centers, KSB Hospital and the National Alliance on Mental Illness have created a team to identify and help people in the early stages of chronic mental illness, before their condition gets out of control and they wind up in jail, the hospital or worse.
The Lee County Crisis Prevention Team will coordinate efforts to spot red flags: people who miss their appointments, are not taking their medications, or are showing noticeable signs of a deterioration in their condition.
Each person in treatment signs a voluntary medical release, so the team can share patient information.
“Mental illness is a disease, just like diabetes, heart disease and cancer – only it affects the brain. It’s not a problem of bad behavior, and it is not a choice,” Dixon Police Chief Danny Langloss said Friday in a news release announcing the effort.
“The more we reduce the stigma of mental illness and provide long-term support, the easier it will be for people to accept their disease and seek treatment that will help them live productive lives.”
“There is a clear connection between mental health and addiction,” Patrick Phelan, CEO of Sinnissippi Centers, said in the release. “This makes our mission of bridging the gap and providing support and resources for both critical issues even more substantial for the community.”
The team has been in the works about 8 months, after many community leaders saw a need to change the way the county dealt with people with mental illness.
It launched quietly in December, and already is helping five people with their treatment. About 60 to 70 others with chronic mental illness have been identified and will be contacted, Langloss said in a phone interview.
For example, one person who was in need of help was having trouble scheduling an appointment with his psychiatrist. Langloss called Linda Clemen, KSB vice president of nursing, and that patient was admitted to the psychiatric ward immediately and had an appointment within 2 hours, he said.
The team plans to go above and beyond to help patients, even if it means making several home checks a day to make sure they are taking their medicine, Langloss said. Once patients are working with the team, they will be given numbers of people they can contact 24-7, should they have an emergency.
The program is not costing the county any extra money, because the workload is being incorporated into existing jobs, but the team is applying for a $300,000 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act grant, which would help expand services and outreach in Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties, Langloss said
“In the long run, I think [the team] will make us more efficient,” he said, adding that the more people who are helped, the fewer who will get in trouble with the law.
The program is similar to the Safe Passage initiative, in which opioid addicts can get treatment rather than incarceration simply by contacting any law officer or either health department in Lee and Whiteside counties. More than 150 people have been helped by Safe Passage since its inception in September 2015.
WHERE TO GET HELP
You must live in Lee County to get help from the Lee County Crisis Prevention Team.
If you or someone you know could benefit from team intervention, call Dixon Police at 815-288-4411, Lee County Sheriff at 815-284-6631, Sinnissippi Centers at 800-242-7642 or KSB Hospital at 815-285-5631.
Those outside of Lee County who need help can call Sinnissippi Centers or KSB Hospital.
The Whiteside County Health Department also has a behavioral health department. Call 815-626-2230 for more information.