Joliet, Ill. – In late 2021, the Joliet Police Department (JPD) was awarded a grant worth over $476,000 through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance grant program. JPD will use the grant to fund crisis intervention training for its officers to improve service call responses involving individuals with mental health issues. The University of St. Francis (USF) was named a sub-recipient as part of the grant award and has supported the program’s overall design.

The comprehensive effort connects JPD and USF with other area agencies, including the Behavioral Health Unit of the Will County Department of Public Health and Cornerstone Services. This collaborative approach, according to USF assistant professor and social work department chairperson Laura Honegger, Ph.D., MSSW, LCSW, will better connect individuals with mental illness to needed treatment and services.

“This collaborative partnership will provide both dispatchers and police officers with specialized training to facilitate the diversion of individuals with mental illness to needed treatment and ancillary services, such as housing, food, benefits, clothing, and healthcare. It’s my hope that this grant will ultimately reduce the ‘revolving door’ of incarceration for persons with mental illness in the Joliet community,” said Honegger.

USF’s role as a sub-recipient of the grant is twofold. First, the university will provide the project with case management from USF MSW-level interns. Second, Honegger and USF assistant professor of criminal and social justice Stacy Dewald, Ph.D., will comprise the research team on the project and carry out process and outcome evaluations.

“I look forward to collaborating with the Joliet Police Department to help improve service delivery for those in our community who are struggling with mental health issues. Through this grant, we hope to provide officers with the training, skills, and support needed to effectively respond to calls and have officers refer those struggling with mental health issues to the proper resources. This program will hopefully help build positive community relations, improve public safety, and promote effective law enforcement strategies,” Dewald said.

The project will span three years, including one year of planning and two years of implementation.

Visit bja.ojp.gov to learn more about the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 52,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit stfrancis.edu.

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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