Today, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) authorized the creation of two new co-responder positions for the Mental Health Center. The cities of Prairie Village, Leawood and Mission Hills will share one full-time position. The other will serve as a second full-time co-responder for the city of Lenexa. These will be county employees, with all expenses for these positions paid by the cities with the exception of county-issued uniforms, computer equipment and trainings.
The Johnson County Mental Health Center Co-Responder program launched as a pilot project in 2011 with the city of Olathe Police Department to respond with law enforcement officers on emergency calls involving an individual with a mental illness. As part of the program, a qualified mental health professional will respond on scene once it is has been determined safe by officers. The goal is to assess the situation and take appropriate action.
The co-responder position is embedded within the police department and operates directly from that location. This program allows Johnson County Mental Health to provide immediate assistance to individuals in need during emergency calls, provides an alternative to the officer taking the person to the county jail or to the emergency room, as well as following up on calls that happen when they are not in service in effort to connect those citizens with needed resources.
“The level of care provided by a co-responder is more appropriate for the client, and more cost-effective for the county and our community partners,” says Tim DeWeese, executive director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center. “This program has been extremely successful and has resulted in decreased jail admission as well as reductions in hospitalizations.”
Since 2011, the program has expanded to include most communities within Johnson County and including the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office. More information on the other ways Johnson County Mental Health Center works with law enforcement responding to incidents involving mental health concerns is available here and a map of the county’s Co-Responder coverage can be found here.