For the first time in the months following the death of Madeline Miller, no residents spoke during public comment at the Monday, Oct. 17, Flossmoor Village Board meeting about the incident or policing in Flossmoor. But Trustee Rosalind Mustafa read a statement she prepared in anticipation of residents who have appeared before the board to speak about policing in the village and Miller’s family being in attendance.
“I have been deeply affected by the comments that have been made,” Mustafa said, noting she was not speaking on behalf of anyone else on the board. “My heart is fractured for Madeline Miller and her last moments, for her family with her at the time, and for everyone who loves and misses her, and for the officers who took her life and saved two family members, and for Flossmoor.”
Mustafa said she has been talking to a lot of people over the past few weeks who have shared questions and concerns about what happened on July 10. She noted that there is still some information that cannot be discussed about what happened on that day, but she wanted to advocate for what public officials can say.
“To move forward on all the work of the village requires mutual trust, empathy and compassion, and responsiveness to residents’ concerns and questions,” Mustafa said. “The tragedy of Mrs. Miller’s death has shed a keen light upon mental illness. Today’s discussion of CESSA and mental health interventions is an example of the open communication that I support from the village.
“Flossmoor has been proactive to interpret and prepare for implementing this legislation, but residents don’t know what has been done on this or any other topic unless we keep them informed and share our concern for their safety and well-being.”
Mustafa directed the last portion of her statement directly to Miller’s family and others who have come to each meeting, asking to be heard.
“We are listening, and we hear you,” she said. “I offer my condolences.”
Mayor Michelle Nelson also provided a brief update, noting the village aims to be as transparent as possible but is awaiting results of an ongoing investigation into the incident. She noted that investigation comes in three parts: Illinois State Police, State’s Attorney and Appellate Court.
“All three entities have to review this case,” Nelson said. “Currently, right now, we are still at Step 1 with the Illinois State Police. We will continue to update you once that information is available. We understand this is a difficult time for Madeline Miller’s family and all involved, and Madeline Miller’s family continues to be in our thoughts and prayers.”
Just prior to the board comments portion of the agenda, during which Mustafa read her statement, Village Manager Bridget Wachtel gave an update on implementation of the state’s Community Emergency Services and Supports Act (CESSA), which was passed in August 2021.
The new legislation requires emergency response operators, such as 911, to refer some calls seeking mental and behavioral health support to a new service that will dispatch mental health professionals instead of police, Wachtel explained. The change would remove low-level and low-risk behavioral health calls from first responders, she said.
But dispatching procedures will not actually change until new protocols and standards are approved and staff is fully trained, Wachtel said. While a call center was opened in July 2022 and operators can take calls at a 988 number created to be a national mental health crisis and suicide prevention number, crisis response teams are not yet in place, she explained.
Questions also remain about a mechanism for 911 operators to transfer calls to 988 when appropriate. As the state is still far from having all measures in place, there is already discussion about moving the effective date from Jan. 1 to July 1, according to Wachtel.
Flossmoor’s staff has observed an increase in calls related to mental health, many of which are repeat callers, Wachtel added. She reported that the dispatch center has convened a committee to discuss whether it can consider interim services or overlapping social service responses depending upon implementation of CESSA. But she added that a number of questions remain, including funding and liability related to such services.