Chicago First Responders Train with Hospitals on Dealing with Mentally Ill Subjects

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SIMLAB project brings the stakeholders together to improve outcomes for mentally challenged individuals.


Chicago first responders, including police, fire and EMS, along with 911 dispatchers, are partnering with local hospitals to conduct live simulation crisis intervention training to help with the city’s emergency response to people with mental illness.

The eight-hour SIMLAB scenario-based course is designed to stimulate communication and collaboration between stakeholders to create more positive outcomes for those suffering from a mental health crisis.

“This is a ground-breaking program,” said Chicago Fire Department Commissioner Jose Santiago in a press release. “It better enables the city to coordinate its emergency response to people in need by addressing specialized training, starting with the person answering the original 911 call, all the way to emergency room staff who evaluate and treat the incoming patient.”

The course will help first responders identify the key signs and symptoms of an acute mental health crisis and develop protocols for screening, evaluating and transporting patients. The courses will begin this quarter will continued to be offered to response agencies.

“Previously, 911 operators, police, paramedics and emergency department clinicians did not have a good understanding of each other’s role for a person suffering from a behavioral emergency,” said Dr. Eddie Markul, EMS medical director for Region XI EMS. “By bringing together all emergency responders for simulation training, our system will offer an improved, coordinated response to behavioral emergencies as well as a better awareness of serious medical conditions that can masquerade as a psychiatric condition.”

This effort will build on training that has already enhanced the understanding first responders have when dealing with mentally challenged individuals. In December, emergency management and communications personnel received training on recognition of possible mentally ill subjects, and more than 500 police officers have received training in the past year.