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How does the county support local law enforcement in responding to mental health concerns?

After an initiative in 2008 to reduce the number of persons with mental illness in the criminal justice system, the county expanded Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training and initiated a mental health co-responder program.

CIT is a collaboration designed to improve the way law enforcement and community partners respond to people experiencing mental health crises. The county’s CIT program is built on a strong partnership between law enforcement, the Mental Health Center, the District Attorney’s Office and individuals affected by mental illness. Johnson County’s CIT council facilitates a 40-hour training to equip officers through educational presentations, verbal de-escalation simulation and a panel of clients and family members who speak from their personal experiences. CIT training aims to enhance the officers’ skills in responding safely and creatively to mental health calls, reduce repeat calls for service and unnecessary arrests by connecting individuals with mental health crisis to appropriate treatment and reduce the likelihood of needing to use physical force.

The co-responder program pairs a Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP) with a trained law-enforcement officer at the scene to effectively triage the case. This partnership enables the mental health professional to conduct an immediate face-to-face assessment of the risk posed by individuals involved in a police encounter. Furthermore, the co-responder can provide effective intervention and link individuals to services right away to prevent the over-utilization of jails and emergency rooms.

Additionally, the Mental Health Center has partnered with local law enforcement to provide Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), which is an 8-hour course designed to provide specific skills to help someone experiencing a mental health issue or having a mental health crisis. To date, more than 300 officers from Johnson County law enforcement agencies have competed the training.