Deflection Initiative holds East Moline meeting to discuss approaching people to substance use, behavioral health issues

The Quad Cities will soon have a new way for first responders to approach people with substance abuse and/or behavioral health issues.

The Northwest Central Illinois Deflection Initiative kicks off with an informational program on Wednesday, January 24 at 1 p.m. at the East Moline School District in the Glenview Room, 3451 Morton Drive. The public, along with community leaders and organizations, will gather to learn more about the emerging field of deflection, where law enforcement, treatment centers and the community work together to respond to people with substance use disorders and behavioral health concerns. This initiative will focus on Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, Warren and Knox Counties. Other areas of the state have already started deflection initiatives, with more coming later this year.

Speakers include:

Kevin Winslow, Captain, Illinois State Police

Jac Charlier, Executive Director, Center for Health and Justice at TASC

Koren VanderWeele, Program Manager, Center for Health and Justice at TASC

Alex Menninger, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority

Jac Charlier, Executive Director, Center for Health and Justice at TASC, explains what “deflection” means in this circumstance. “Deflection is an early intervention strategy by which law enforcement, working together in the community with community based treatment housing recovery services, work to get people connected to the services they need so that they and their families can move away from drug use and all the issues that come with it,” he said. “The movement of deflection, which is a new field and movement in the United States and now globally, emerged out of the opioid epidemic in the United States where law enforcement was routinely running into people more and more that were overdosing.” The statewide deflection initiative is led by the Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Youth Services and the Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority and started its first program in East St. Louis, Ill.

“The first thing to understand about deflection is that it is for people whose personal drug use is driving the reasons that they’re running into problems with their family, with their friends, with their job and ultimately possibly with law enforcement,” said Charlier. “It is not for people who have committed any serious crime or representing public safety risk. We’re talking about the situations where people are maybe beginning to use drugs or get to the point where they might now be starting to move into addiction and the behaviors that go with it are beginning to cause problems for them and their personal life.”

“It might be the officer gets flagged down by a citizen who says, ‘officer, can you help me out, my son’s here, he came back, he’s been drinking, he’s been using drugs, help me out’ or the officer sees something. Once the officer assesses the situation and realizes there’s no arrest here, the deflection kicks in. There is a team of people who have experience in terms of recovery from drug use.” This can include people from the community who are well-known and work alongside the person and their family to help them get the services they need. This also frees up law enforcement to return to patrolling streets and responding to calls.

The initiative leads to positive outcomes for everyone, said Charlier. “With deflection, it costs less, it gets the better outcomes, it helps the person, it helps the family. Law enforcement is neither trained nor equipped nor should we ask them to resolve issues of addiction.” He said Illinois will be the first state in the country to implement the Deflection initiative in all 102 of its counties.

To learn more about TASC and diversion programs, click here.

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