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Peoria Police Department pushes for IRIS referral tool growth

Tim Shelley
The Peoria Police Department hopes to point more people in the right direction for resources, and follow up, through a program called IRIS.

The Peoria Police Department is working to get more organizations signed up for IRIS, or Integrated Referral Intake System. IRIS is a program allowing the police and organizations to refer clients for services and track their referral every step of the way.

“They use icons,” said Community Relations Crime Prevention Manager Mary Peterson. “So it starts out with a pot with the seed, and when you make the referral, then the seed starts to bloom, when the referral has been accepted, then you get leaves. And when the referral has been completed, you get a full bloom in IRIS.”

Peterson says the goal of the program is to prevent people from slipping through the cracks before they can benefit from local services. Use of IRIS started in the Tri-County area with six organizations in 2020, now it’s up to 60. The services available include everything from housing and food support, to early childhood development, education and maternal health.

“One of the ones we do not have is an organization on aging,” said Peterson. “But we did have an organization on aging In one of our informational sessions, and so we're going to work to engage them.”

Peterson hosted three informational meetings over the last three months to bring more organizations on board. Peoria Township and the PCCEO Head Start program are examples. She says they’ve recently added three organizations with three more in talks to begin the IRIS onboarding process.

“We would talk with you about the workflow. So we'd have you complete and fill out a workflow plan,” said Peterson. “And that is looking at your organization and saying how does this fit into what we're already doing? And who would be responsible?”

The program’s standards require organizations on IRIS to respond to referrals within 72 hours, either accepting or rejecting them. Rejection could be based on eligibility requirements or service area. Afterwards, notes on the program will reflect what happened: if the client was successfully contacted and whether they accepted or declined services.

“The person in the organization that made the referral is able to go back into the system and see what actually happened without having to contact the person that they made the referral for.” said Peterson.

However, it’s important to note that not every organization on IRIS has access to this information. IRIS is HIPAA compliant and verbal or written consent is required for any referred services or treatment. Referral information stays between the organization that made the referral and the information that received it. Data security training is part of the IRIS onboarding process.

“For example, if I was to make a referral, and I made a referral to five different organizations, the only thing that the other agency on the other end can see is what they've done,” said Peterson. “Because you want to be careful with that.”

A bar within the program also shows organizations’ capacity to take on new clients: green means available, yellow means approaching full and red means over capacity. The program is internet based, which means referrals can be made from anywhere.

Peterson is optimistic signups for the program will continue to grow.

“I think that this along with some of the other resources that we have here in the Peoria community is going to be a game changer as we move forward.” she said.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.