Town Hall: Emergency Response Alternatives in Illinois


July 9, 2020 | by Amber Smock

The Community Emergency Services and Support Act (CESSA)

Join Access Living for a Virtual Town Hall on Monday, July 13

Join Access Living for a Virtual Town Hall at 6 p.m. Monday, July 13 to learn about the Community Emergency Services and Support Act (CESSA), an Illinois state bill that would create an alternative emergency response system for people who need help from professionals trained in mental/behavioral crises. Register online today to attend.

Right now, the care of Illinoisans experiencing mental and behavioral heath emergencies is left to the police, who are trained in law enforcement instead of mental health care, and too often misunderstand the situation. 

Treating these emergencies like a law enforcement activity leads to exacerbation of the healthcare crisis, unnecessary lock-ups, and police killings. Black and brown disabled people make up at least half of those killed by police.

Young adults of color with disabilities in Access Living’s organizing group Advance Your Leadership Power (AYLP) were the catalyst behind the CESSA bill in response to the death of young disabled people at the hands of police. This Town Hall will feature people with disabilities, health professionals, state legislators and guests talking about why and how this bill will save lives and reduce incarceration rates in Illinois.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Illinois State Senator Robert Peters – In his first term as a State Senator, Peters was the chief co-sponsor of legislation to ban private detention centers and ending “pay to stay” practice in correctional facilities. Recently, he has spoken out in favor of bail reform, called for community investment over incarceration, and has actively supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Illinois State Representative Kelly Cassidy – Cassidy supported bills to expand job opportunities for ex-offenders, reduce harsh sentences, and to mandate that all police officers complete Crisis Intervention Training.
  • S’fya Eshe – In 2013, a police officer restrained S’fya at a hospital by pressing on her head and neck, and S’fya was later transferred to a psychiatric ward. 
  • Renee Watts – Renee is the sister of Stephon Watts, a 15-year-old boy with autism who was killed by the police during a mental health crisis.
  • Simone Wilson – Simone is a mental health advocate, motivational speaker, and former special education paraprofessional.
  • Emcee: Candace Coleman Racial Justice Community Organizer at Access Living, AYLP

ASL interpretation and CART provided.

Due to the limitations of the Zoom webinar platform, questions submitted during the event via chat are not accessible to participants using screen readers. If you are interested in submitting a question to the panel, we encourage all attendees to submit a question in advance via this accessible form on our website.

We hope you can join us for this important conversation. Register today