PEORIA, Ill. – A local lawmaker says she is grateful Governor JB Pritzker came to Peoria to sign her legislation that will help both mental health, and police response to calls related to mental health — and not just for that reason.

Among pieces of legislation Pritzker signed at the Peoria Civic Center Tuesday, was one crafted by State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth allowing for mental health responders on police calls related to victims of violent crime.

Gordon-Booth, who lost a stepson to gun violence in 2014, says it should prove that she’s not a part of any movement to “defund the police.”

“There are those who have lots of catch phrases, none that I accept,” said Gordon-Booth. “Because I believe we should be funding the community. We should be funding the police. We should be funding programs, and funding Peoria.”

Money for hiring and retaining police officers, funding to help witness protection programs and making it safer for victims to report crimes, and paying for the funerals of children who die due to violent crime were the other initiatives signed into law by Pritzker.

“Starting right here in Peoria, and in locations across the state, this initiative will bring intervention training and mental health first aid education to first responders,” said Pritzker.

Peoria Police Chief Eric Echevarria says it’s legislation that’s something he knew from the minute he took office almost one year ago would help the city.

“Looking at the data in Peoria, I knew we needed to evaluate how we were going to respond to those in the community experiencing emotional distress, and/or experiencing a behavioral or mental health crisis,” said Echevarria.

The chief says more than 1,200 police calls last year alone were related to a person who was feeling suicidal, or who had committed suicide, among other statistics on calls.

State Senator Dave Koehler of Peoria calls the legislation signed Tuesday “the right thing to do.”

“Locking a person up doesn’t really solve the problem,” said Koehler. “You probably have alcohol abuse, or substance abuse, or mental health issues, or emotional issues, and you have to address it. That’s a root cause. These bills do that.”

The legislation is also supposed to help violent crime be protected while reporting such crimes.

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May 10, 2022 at 04:27PM