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KCPD aims to improve response to mental health issues

Posted at 3:32 PM, Nov 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-16 17:26:20-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sgt. Sean Hess with the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) says there are a large number of calls coming in from people in the community dealing with an emotional crisis.

"Anywhere from 20 to 25 percent of all the police officers that are serviced, deal with somebody in an emotional crisis situation," Hess said. "So you start looking at the numbers and how many police shootings we have and how many jail populations, and the homeless, it's quite concerning that it's a large chunk of our time and our resources involved."

And when the crisis intervention officers are on the scene, finding a place for these individuals took time. 

“We had no front door to take somebody in a mental health crisis situation, we've had very fragmented services,” Hess said. “It was difficult to break the jail cycle, street cycle.”

But with a partnership with the Kansas City Assessment and Triage Center (KC-ATC) that is now changing.

Those in a mental crisis can get out of the criminal justice side and into the mental health side.

“We're on the front line, I'd like to coin the phrase sidewalk psychiatrist,” Hess said. “We're the ones out there with the calls and what the crisis center does it allows us to take somebody to a central point, where they get the services.”

The center opened just a year ago. It’s open 24 hours, 365 days of the year. KC-ATC Program Director Stephanie Boyer says you can see the impact in numbers.

“Over this last year, we've had almost 2,800 referrals. 750 of those came from law enforcement,” Boyer said.

Roughly 15 new patients come in a day and stay about 23 hours.

“It's a short time period, but our whole goal is what's going on, what do they need assistance with and then we just work to get them all hooked up with all of that,” Boyer said.

It’s a location hoping to break the jail cycle, and give individuals the help they need while providing officers an added resource.

“Our whole goal is to relieve officers, be that no wrong door and get them back out answering calls,” Boyer said.

The center only accepts referrals from KCPD and area emergency rooms.

If you do have a family in a mental health crisis and call 911, you can ask to speak to a Crisis Intervention Officer, also known as a CIT officer, to get the help they need.