Aurora unveils Crisis Intervention Unit for Mental Health Awareness Month

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Aurora Police Department unveiled a brand-new office for its Crisis Intervention Unit (CIU).

An upgrade from its former – and much smaller – office, the new space aims to provide a collaborative and cohesive workspace for the unit's expanding services.

"The community wants this. There is a need to bring a mental health professional into some of these situations where people are in crisis," said David Guevara, investigator, Crisis Intervention Unit, Aurora Police Department.

Located on the first floor of the Aurora Police Department, a ribbon cutting was held Tuesday to celebrate the CIU’s news digs. The ceremony was attended by Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, Aurora Police Chief Keith Cross and CIU program staff.

The unit is made up of four police investigators, a police sergeant, three social workers, and a social work supervisor.

"[Social workers] are coming everywhere with us, they put a vest on," said Guevara.

Together they respond to 9-1-1 calls where deescalation is needed during a mental health crisis.

"The uniform can be a barrier sometimes, and having somebody from the other side, working in the social work field, it very much makes a difference in those calls," said Guevara.

The CIU works to reduce the need for force and to identify community members who would be better off by receiving vital services instead of an arrest or jail time.

"We have a lot of individuals that experience mental health crises over and over again. We have individuals who have no resources, oftentimes nowhere to go," said Janeth Barba, CEO of the Family Services Association of Greater Elgin.

A joint effort between the Aurora Police Department and the Family Services Association of Greater Elgin, Barba says they connect individuals who may not know where to turn with crucial resources.

"What our program does is really that safety net of catching individuals who typically would fall between the cracks and being able to link them to existing community resources," said Barba.

Additionally, the team focuses on post-crisis case management, assisting community members with their next steps toward recovery.

The CIU was conceptualized in 2019 and officially launched in 2020. Since then, its services have grown significantly.

The unit even serves as a model for other police departments across the nation.

"We have received phone calls, also visits from out-of-state, as far as Florida, California, Indiana – there are a lot of people really turning to this model," said Guevara.

"The partnership of law enforcement and professionals – whether the mental health field, social workers – that’s key," said Barba.

Each year, one in five adults and one in six kids experience mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), yet experts say only about half receive treatment.

Find support by calling NAMI’s mental health helpline Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. CDT at 1-800-950-6264 or by texting ‘helpline’ to 62640.

For 24/7 support, NAMI’s crisis line is available by calling or texting ‘988.’