Supporting vulnerable populations

Stronger through…

A woman and three men, in different frames in a virtual meeting, sit at tables with tablet computers.

Due to the pandemic, many programs and service had to be provided virtually to help protect the health and safety of participants.

…innovation during a pandemic

While some supports may have looked different in 2021 due to the pandemic, Johnson County Government continued to passionately and creatively implement the Board of County Commissioners’ priority to meet the needs of the county’s vulnerable populations. Departments and agencies worked together, along with community partners, to provide services and supports to residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, those impacted by mental health challenges or in need of financial assistance, as well as older adults needing health, nutrition or other assistance to help them stay in their homes.

…helping people live as independently as possible

Thanks to an extra infusion of $250,000 in 2021 in the Aging and Human Services budget from the Board of County Commissioners (a similar budget increase was made in 2020), more older adults in Johnson County received assistance to stay in their homes. This added funding provides more people with attendant care, homemaker and medication management. Also in 2021, AHS launched a new online Aging Resources Guide, including access to information about food and nutrition, care in the home and transportation, among other important topics.

More affordable and accessible housing options were created in 2021, thanks to the strong collaboration between Johnson County Development Supports and Friends of JCDS. The Friends group purchased three homes in 2021 and opened two homes, ensuring more adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities have access to safe, accessible and supportive housing.

…collaborating on embedding mental health assistance throughout the community

In 2021, new funding from the BOCC and multiple grants created opportunities for more mental health professionals to serve individuals throughout the community in a variety of innovative ways.

  • There was a 157% increase in mental health co-responders in Johnson County. A co-responder is a mental health clinician who works with law enforcement to respond to calls involving a person experiencing a behavioral health crisis. JCMHC went from seven to 18 co-responders embedded within local law enforcement agencies.
  • In September 2021, JCMHC was awarded funds through SAMHSA’s Community Mental Health Centers Grant Program, which will be utilized for JCMHC’s Reentry Project. This new project creates a designated team of mental health professionals that will provide services to individuals with mental illness reentering the community after being released from Johnson County’s Adult Detention Centers. For the Reentry Project, JCMHC is partnering with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the Johnson County Department of Corrections.
  • In August 2021, JCMHC began answering all local calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Answering these calls serves as a preliminary step to providing future coverage for calls to the new three-digit dialing code, 988, which will launch in July 2022. Additionally, JCMHC was fortunate to have received funding through a 988 Transition Grant that allows JCMHC to create and hire staff for a dedicated 988/Crisis Line Team.
  • Throughout 2021, JCMHC partnered with a local organization, Pause First Academy, to offer resilience training sessions to nearly 250 frontline workers from various sectors. Resilience training is meant to help people on the front lines prepare for and work through the stresses they encounter.
  • The BOCC approved a new, on-campus clinician position to support students at Johnson County Community College with mental health challenges or concerns.
  • JCMHC was awarded a grant through the CDC’s Drug-Free Communities Support Program. Grant funds were utilized to add a new Prevention Coordinator position to support the Olathe Communities That Care Coalition (Olathe CTC) and its initiatives to prevent youth substance use. Olathe CTC works to foster a safe and healthy community through positive youth development, anti-drug and alcohol messages for youth and educational resources based on current Olathe drug trends.
A virtual meeting screen showing a dozen people in separate locations participating.

Johnson County Developmental Supports held a virtual Self-Advocacy Meeting with Kansas Representative Brandon Woodard as part of Pride Month.

…addressing those who are housing insecure or in need of financial assistance

Many partners in county government and the community are working on solutions for those who have barriers to affordable housing or may need some assistance with a rent or utility payment. After hearing the results of the 2021 Johnson County Housing Study, the BOCC appointed a subcommittee to further explore the county’s appropriate role in impacting housing needs in the county. That work continues.

Also in 2021, in addition to the county funds spent every year to help residents with utility or rental payments, Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance made available more than $18 million in federal COVID-19 funds for rental and utility assistance available to support Johnson County residents.

An additional resource added in 2021 was funding for a new homeless outreach manager for Johnson County Mental Health Center. In addition, Johnson County received 62 additional Emergency Housing Vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These vouchers cover housing costs for vulnerable populations for up to nine years with the potential for continued support. This was the first time Johnson County received additional EHVs since 2010.