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Oak Park police mental health bracelet campaign spreads awareness

Nearly 100 green emergency identification bracelets distributed since July.

By Dan Campana

Beginning in July, the Oak Park Police Department set out to spread mental health awareness by distributing green bracelets which would serve a second purpose as emergency identification for those with various mental health challenges.

Now, three months later, the plastic bracelets bearing the phrase “Oak Park Cares” have helped advance the community conversation on the issue, according to authorities.

“We have distributed close to 100 bracelets and have been given the opportunity to speak at several meeting for organizations addressing mental health awareness, continuing the department’s ongoing commitment to mental health awareness,” said Officer Kevin Collins, who is in his 23rd year with the department.

Collins helped create the program which was inspired by some of what he saw in the special education department at Brooks Middle School where he works as the school resource officer.

“We noticed that if someone is diabetic or has nut allergies, there are safety precautions in place,” Collins said earlier this year. “So, why not try to do something along those lines for someone who has difficulty communicating in everyday situations, let alone a high-stress emergency situation?”

As part of the program supported with grant money received from the Oak Park Township Mental Health Board, the green bracelets – which are free – include a metal faceplate with a unique identification number and directions for contacting the police department.

The bracelets signal to first responders that the person wearing the bracelet might have difficulty communicating in an emergency due to autism, Alzheimer’s, dementia or other mental health challenges. Officials said the ultimate goal is to keep an individual safe.

“Luckily, to this date, no incidents have arisen where the bracelets have needed to be utilized in an emergency situation,” Collins said.

The department also offers a version without the plate which can be worn by family, friends or anyone who wishes to show their support for mental health awareness. For more information on the program, contact the Oak Park Police Department at 708-386-3800 or police@oak-park.us.

(Photo courtesy of Oak Park Police Department)