By Mike Miletich
Published: May. 10, 2022 at 7:58 PM EDT
PEORIA (WGEM) – Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Illinois state lawmakers recognized gun violence as a public health crisis in the state last fall. Lawmakers passed several plans this spring to combat the issue with an emphasis on mental health resources.
Police departments in Peoria, Springfield, East St. Louis, and Waukegan will participate in a co-responder pilot program. Each of those departments will have six months to hire social workers who can help crime victims who may need mental or behavioral health services after traumatic events. Democratic lawmakers included $10 million in the Fiscal Year 2023 budget to fund the pilot program.
Pritzker signed the co-responder legislation with sponsors of the legislation cheering the effort in the River City.
“Illinois will be a leading example across the nation for reform, rehabilitation, and justice,” Pritzker said.
These crime service specialists will work alongside social service agencies to create wraparound services for victims. That could be a collaboration between community groups, hospitals, school districts, or the juvenile justice system. Social workers will also help victims find safe housing, transportation, or legal services if needed.
This law was championed by Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria) who lost her stepson Derrick Booth Jr. to gun violence in 2014.
“The state is stepping up to say we know that this is a challenge,” Gordon-Booth said. “We know that you need the mental health support, the behavioral health support. We want to be there and we want to walk with you every step of the way.”
All homicide investigators must be trained on victim-centered and trauma-informed investigations by July 1, 2023. This law also creates a grant program to help local governments run anonymous tip lines with cash rewards for people with information leading to arrests.