Lenexa and Shawnee are the newest cities to join the Johnson County Mental Health co-responder program. This partnership allows a mental health professional to accompany police officers on calls that involve a potential mental health situation. The goal is to provide individuals experiencing a mental health issue quicker access to services and keep them out of jail or the emergency room.
The Lenexa and Shawnee city councils approved the co-responder program in February. On Thursday, the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners authorized the creation of the position that will provide crisis intervention assistance to Lenexa and Shawnee. Both cities look forward to the collaboration and improved services levels this program creates.
“The Lenexa Police Department and Johnson County Mental Health have a long history of working collaboratively to assist the mentally ill in Lenexa,” said Tom Hongslo, Lenexa Chief of Police. “The addition of a co-responder will allow us to give the best possible service to our citizens. We take great pride in providing quality services to all members of the community. The majority of our officers have crisis intervention training and the addition of this program will only strengthen our commitment to quality service.”
“Our staff is excited to begin this progressive approach in providing those with mental illness the services they need and deserve,” said Rob Moser, Shawnee Chief of Police. “The collaboration between our three entities has been an impressive process and we look forward to providing our communities with the appropriate services to help prevent over-utilization of jails and emergency rooms when responding on these types of calls.
Johnson County’s co-responder program began in 2011 when a federal grant paid for Olathe to hire and embed a mental health professional into its police department. Since that time the grant expired and the Olathe Police Department now financially supports the program through a contract with Johnson County Mental Health. In 2013, the Overland Park Police Department received a grant to implement the program there.
In 2015, dispatchers called for a co-responder to assist on 1,184 calls in Olathe and Overland Park combined. Out of those calls, law enforcement placed the offending individual:
“The co-responder program increases the likelihood that someone suffering from mental illness will receive necessary services quickly, rather than ending up in jail or the emergency room where the same level of services is not available,” says Rob MacDougall, Mental Health Technician, Johnson County Mental Health. “Expanding this program benefits the entire community, and we appreciate the support from Lenexa and Shawnee.”
Several cities in the northeast part of Johnson County are currently considering adding a co-responder to their police departments. More information on the co-responder program is available in this case study.