Chicago nonprofit creates mobile mental health response teams to help residents

When we see a person in distress, our first reaction is to call 911.

Depending on the situation, you actually may not want to call the police first.

Trilogy is a nonprofit behavioral health care organization in Rogers Park. 

Catlin Smeele is a crisis counselor, who is part of Trilogy's new mobile response team.

She recently helped someone who called Trilogy's hotline while in mental distress.

"When I originally took this position, I was thinking of a crisis as someone is suicidal. Someone is homicidal," said Smeele. "After working with a lot of folks on these calls, there are a lot of different things that constitute a crisis."

After months of planning, Trilogy began rolling out its First Response Alternative Crisis Team in January. 

Since then, it has received over 230 calls from people looking for mental help either for themselves or a family member.

They have been able to help about half over the phone and the other half by responding to their call for help in person. 

As Smeele said, there are a lot of different things that constitute a crisis.

These days, many of those things have to do with access to services. 

"With COVID, all these benefit offices have been closed. Then, there's virtual appointments and some people don’t have phones," said Smeele. "They don’t know how to use technology."

When they are not responding to a call, Trilogy's Mobile Crisis Response Team is still hitting the streets. 

This time to get the word out about this new program.

They are currently available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.   

By the end of the summer, they plan to be available 24-7 

Maria Hadden is the alderwoman for Chicago's 49th Ward. 


Right now, Trilogy's team primarily covers the North Side neighborhoods in that area, along with Evanston and Skokie.

Hadden says her ward ranks about fifth in the city when it comes to calls for help with mental health. 

"It gives people options to be able to care for their neighbors, to get people services in the appropriate manner," said Hadden.

Trilogy is one of about 10 agencies in the Chicago area who received funding from the Illinois Department of Human Services to provide mobile crisis response teams. 

The number to reach Trilogy's team is 800-FACT-400.

In addition to more crisis response teams hitting the streets, a national mental health crisis hotline is expected to roll out this July.

The number will be 988.