Grant helps crisis center provide more services for inmates suffering from mental illness

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - A half a million dollars is on its way to Kansas City, Kan., that should help alleviate a problem facing police departments all over the country:  how to help people with mental illness.

Weekends are especially busy at the Wyandotte County jail and what the new grant will do is give officers a place to send any inmate with a mental illness who is eligible for release instead of sending them up with the other inmates.

"About 30 percent of the population at the jail have some sort of mental illness," Captain Douglas Parisi with the KCK Police Department said.

Once an officer determines if an inmate suffers from a mental illness, the officer can opt to take that person to a mental health clinic during the week. But on the weekend, about the only option is a jail cell.

Now, a new federal grant could change all that, allowing workers at the Wyandot, Inc., Crisis Center to provide services seven days a week.

"It enables us to keep the jail population down it also reduces the cost of the community," Parisi said.

That's because it'll be cheaper for police to take anyone with a mental illness to a specialized center rather than having them stay in jail for $90 a day.

That isn't the only benefit. Just ask Denise Baynam, who suffers from schizophrenia.

"It is important for them to know they have support out there," Baynam said.

She owes her recovery to centers like Wyandot, Inc.

"I can manage things without feeling overwhelmed," she said.

The $500,000 will also be used to hire officers who can help determine who should be taken to the center versus the county jail.

"It's critical it's the right thing to do not only as a person, but as a community," Julie Solomon, Chief Strategic Officer at Wyandot, Inc., said.

The grant was awarded by the Federal Bureau of Justice and will be handed out in two parts.

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