KCKPD creates position to help the mentally ill

KANSAS CITY, Kan. - It's estimated that 1 out every 4 Americans has a mental illness. The Kansas City, Kan., Police Department is looking for a mobile crisis co-responder to help that underserved segment of the population.

It’s a segment of the population that is often incarcerated due to the diagnosed and sometimes undiagnosed illness.

Captain Doug Parisi is with the KCK Police Department. He said all of his new officers are required to go through Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to help them recognize and diagnose mental illnesses.

"A third of the jail population on any given day has some form of diagnosed mental illness, as police officers we are in contact with these people all the time," Parisi said.

Vernell Lee is one of those people. Doctors diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia in 1991. He's been arrested countless times.

"I'm not doing anything criminal but sometimes I have behavior issues," Lee said.

Twice a year, KCK police officers go through CIT; currently 103 of the 360 officers have been trained, but the department is adding a position to better serve the mentally ill.

They've created a mobile crisis co-responder position.

"That is going to be a mental health service provider that's actually embedded within the police department. They'll be able to respond out with an officer," Parisi said.

Susan Crain Lewis is the CEO of Mental Health America of the Heartland. She applauds the department's initiative and hopes other police departments do the same.

"It is an issue of public perception more than public safety. This is really an important step for Wyandotte County and the Unified Government to treat our citizens the way they deserve to be treated," Crain Lewis said.
The co-responder position is funded by a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant. The position is still available.

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