Town Hall: Responding to Mental/Behavioral Emergencies Without Police Saves Lives


July 9, 2020 | by Emma Olson

Media Alert: Responding to Mental/Behavioral Emergencies Without Police Saves Lives


Bridget Hayman

Director of Communications

(312) 640-2129

Disabled People and Legislators Discuss Proposed Bill Impact at Virtual Town Hall


During an emergency, the needs of people with mental and behavioral disabilities are too often misunderstood, leading to police killings and unnecessary lock-ups. Black and brown disabled people make up at least half of those killed by police.

Chicago-based Access Living is hosting a virtual town hall to discuss the Community Emergency Services and Support Act (CESSA), a bill that would create an alternative emergency response system provided by professionals trained in mental and behavioral crises instead of police. This approach has proved successful in other states, ensuring disabled people get appropriate services and supports, removing police when they are not needed, and saving costs.

The event will feature people with disabilities and state legislators talking about why and how this bill will save lives and reduce incarceration rates in Illinois.

Young adults of color with disabilities in Access Living’s organizing group Advance Your Leadership Power (AYLP) were the catalyst behind this bill.


6 p.m. Monday, July 13


Register here to attend via Zoom. Media questions will be taken upon request and interviews with participants are available upon request. Submit a question in advance.


Illinois State Senator Robert Peters (D – 13)
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 (D-14)
Cassidy supported bills to expand job opportunities for ex-offenders, reduce harsh sentences, and to mandate that all police officers complete Crisis Intervention Training.

Sfya 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

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Nationally recognized as a leading force in the disability advocacy community, Access Living challenges stereotypes, protects civil rights and champions social reform.