KANKAKEE — Kankakee County State’s Attorney Jim Rowe has heard people tell him that his job is to prosecute crime. That is true, but Rowe believes in a more holistic approach to solving Kankakee’s issues with violent crimes.
“We can’t prosecute and incarcerate our way out of the issues that face our community,” Rowe said Monday night during a school safety meeting at the Lincoln Cultural Center. “If we’re really going to make a difference and reduce violence, we have to invest as much resources into prevention and intervention as we do into prosecution.”
Rowe introduced another wave of prevention and intervention efforts during the meeting, which 50 people attended. He announced that his office and Kankakee School District 111 received a three-year, $240,000 “STOP School Violence Mental Health Training Grant” from the U.S. Department of Justice.
That grant will provide the school district with the resources to reduce violence and suicide by training staff members throughout the district on de-escalate situations and identify mental health issues.
It also will train students how to identify mental health situations and offer them anonymous communication systems — such as a hotline, website and mobile apps — to report concerns about violence.
“The goal is to help adults identify when students are suicidal and when they have issues that are affecting their behavior,” Superintendent Genevra Walters said. “We want to be more proactive than reactive.”
Kankakee school district will benefit directly from the grant in the first year. The services will expand to all schools throughout Kankakee County in the final two years of the grant.
“That’s a big deal,” Rowe said. “That means every law enforcement department is going to receive this training. Every teacher in every school in our community is going to receive this training. Potentially every student in every school throughout our county is going to be trained to identify [issues], and they’re going to know what to do when they see some sort of violent act occurring."