Johnson County Mental Health Center team’s move to the County Communications Center is a first step toward connection with 911 dispatchers

Group of Johnson County staff holding a ribbon with BOCC Chairman Mike Kelly cutting a red ribbon in a room in the County Communications Center

On Tuesday, Dec. 12, Johnson County officials cut the ribbon on a new space at the County Communications Center in Olathe for Johnson County Mental Health Center’s crisis line team that answers calls to 988 and the local crisis line. The new space will improve the infrastructure and technology supporting the crisis line and open the door to a future connection with the county’s 911 dispatchers.

Along with other investments in mental health crisis response, like JCMHC’s Co-Responder Program and Mobile Crisis Response Team, county leaders say resources like these are more important than ever for Johnson County’s residents.

“The demand for mental health services has only continued to grow in Johnson County in the years since the COVID-19 pandemic. When we have the opportunity for our 911 dispatchers to work closer together with those who take 988 and local crisis line calls, we are able to serve our entire community more effectively by providing this essential service and helping meet this critical need,” said Mike Kelly, Chair of the Johnson County Board of County Commissioners.

The new space provides room for the crisis line team to grow as call volume continues to increase in Johnson County. The team answered over 41,000 calls in 2022, up from 17,000 just five years prior in 2017.

Sharing a building will also allow the county’s 911 dispatchers and mental health professionals to share resources and collaborate more closely and efficiently, which is a first step toward a more formal connection between the two.

“We want to make sure we’re providing the right service at the right time for anyone in our community who’s experiencing an emergency or crisis,” said Tim DeWeese, Johnson County Mental Health Center’s director. “As a county, we’re working together to ensure mental health crisis response is a part of that conversation alongside police, fire and EMS.” 

Over time, the goal will be to implement a 911 diversion program in Johnson County that would allow 911 calls to the County Communications Center to be transferred directly to the crisis line team when it is safe to do so. Such a program could be a model for other jurisdictions regionally and nationally looking to implement a similar connection between the two services.

“This move marks a significant step forward for prioritizing mental health in our county. Together, we’re creating a community where people facing mental health challenges feel seen, heard and supported and where help is readily available to those who need it,” said Chief J. Paul Davis, Johnson County’s Director of Emergency Services.

Those in need of mental health support for themselves or their loved ones are encouraged to call JCMHC’s crisis line, 913-268-0156, or 988 to connect with a local mental health professional who will listen, support, share resources and provide guidance.

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