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Posted on: January 2, 2024

Get to Know: Skokie's Co-Responder Team

Officer Kimberly Blue and Brian McHugh

Launched in 2021, the Village’s Co-Responder Team pairs a licensed social worker from the Village’s Health and Human Services Department with a Crisis Intervention Trained (CIT) police officer to respond to individuals in crisis and others in need of resources and support.

Social worker Brian McHugh and Officer Kimberly Blue make up the Village’s two-person Co-Responder Team. In addition to responding to calls for service, they collaborate with local and regional mental health and service organizations to coordinate referrals for individuals to available resources and care. In an average month, the Co-Responder Team connects with more than 80 individuals and families to provide them with support.

McHugh brings more than 20 years of social work experience to his role, including experience with mental health, adult protective services, domestic violence and youth outreach. Officer Kimberly Blue, a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT), has completed Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) as well as specialized training in domestic violence, peer support and substance abuse. Together, they work throughout Skokie to support residents in need.

What is a typical day for the Co-Responder Team?

Officer Blue: Every day is different. First, we’ll check our voice messages and see if any reports have been assigned to us. This could include conducting well-being checks or meeting with a family requesting assistance for a loved one. During the day, we’re also dispatched to assist with immediate, “happening now” emergencies for individuals in crisis.

McHugh: It’s important to connect with people during their “window of crisis” to build that trust and relationship. This makes it more likely for them to accept the support and resources available to them in the moment, and also to feel comfortable calling us if they need help in the future.

Officer Blue: In doing this, we not only can provide individuals with the resources they need, but we also relieve police response so that they can focus on other calls and issues throughout Skokie.

McHugh: We also spend a lot of time out in the community building relationships, including with unhoused individuals, families, Village staff, schools, hospitals and service organizations, so that they’re aware of the support we provide and trust us to reach out when they need help.

Does the Co-Responder Team provide support to unhoused individuals?

McHugh: Yes. We collaborate with organizations to coordinate referrals to available services, including mental health services, counseling, housing opportunities, food, clothing and financial assistance, and respite centers. 

Officer Blue: We also visit the Niles Township Food Pantry and respite center regularly, as well as transit hubs and other areas in the community where individuals often need support.

What challenges do you face in providing resources and support?

McHugh: There are times when individuals may decline resources available to them. For example, a person may have access to housing – either through their family, social networks or other means, including shelters – but still choose to live on the street. Although we can encourage them to take advantage of available resources, they are not obligated to accept that assistance.

What do you like most about your job?

Officer Blue: I love the diversity of the community. Throughout my career in Skokie, I have had the opportunity to learn about so many diverse cultures and meet a wide variety of people. There’s also a diversity in the calls we receive.

I’m not in this role to write tickets and arrest people. Brian and I have the flexibility to spend time with those who need it and take them where they need to go to get the services they need.

McHugh: Families call us with a problem and they rely on us for a solution. It’s all about building trust, building relationships, and solving problems. We are one of the few Villages in the country doing this work, and I can speak for both Officer Blue and myself when I say that serving the Skokie community in this role is a privilege.

At the end of the day, we’re just one link in the chain. Every day we work with an amazing group of people and organizations to solve problems, help people, and make our community healthier and safer.

What are some of the outreach services the Village provides?

The Co-Responder Team is just one component of the Village’s outreach. Other support services include:

  • Youth outreach, including providing constructive alternatives – such as anger management, community service and counseling – for youth ticketed for ordinance violations
  • Family services, including emergency and seasonal financial assistance, short-term counseling and case management
  • Disability services, including offering free use of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and more through the Village’s Lending Closet
  • Senior services, including Benefits Access assistance and senior health insurance counseling
  • Information and referral, including advocacy and short-term counseling, as well as referrals to outside agencies for long-term counseling

What other community resources are available?

In addition to Village programs and resources, local and regional partner organizations – including the Salvation Army, Connections for the Homeless, Niles Township, and faith-based organizations – offer a variety of resources, ranging from housing, financial assistance, counseling, food, clothing and more. Contact the Village’s Human Services Division at 847-933-8208 to learn more.

What can community members do to support the Village’s efforts?

  • Donate to Assist-a-Family. Your generosity directly supports local families in need.
  • Volunteer. Contact the Human Services Division at 847-933-8208 to learn about opportunities.
  • Get involved. The Village’s Medical Reserve Corps enhances the Village’s emergency response capabilities and is seeking licensed mental health workers.
  • Report issues. Use the Access Skokie app to report issues.
  • Support local service organizations.

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