The Overland Park Disaster Motion Crew was able to develop final September from 5 members to 18.
However 9 months after the growth was authorisedtheir staff, which incorporates law enforcement officials and co-responders, remains to be incomplete with solely 10 folks.
The six psychological well being co-responder positions are full of two latest hires, however there are nonetheless solely 4 specifically skilled law enforcement officials on the staff.
The staff is a partnership between the Overland Park Police Division and the Johnson County Psychological Well being Division to reply to psychological well being calls with professionals skilled in disaster intervention. The Overland Park Psychological Well being Activity Power really useful the growth final 12 months and the metropolis council voted 9-1 to approve the funds final September that included a rise in property taxes for the staff. In addition they acquired almost $ 250,000 from the Division of Justice.
Their aim is to pair specifically skilled officers with licensed psychological well being professionals to reply to psychological well being calls. Officers undergo disaster intervention coaching and in addition can do extra superior coaching for specialties like aged, juveniles, homelessness and negotiating.
The push for extra psychological well being initiatives within the county was partly due to the dying of a 17-year-old John Albers in 2018.
Former Overland Park police officer Clayton Jenison responded to Albers’ house after a number of 911 calls mentioned Albers was making an attempt to kill himself. Jenison fired 13 pictures and struck Albers six occasions whereas he was backing out of the driveway.
Johnson County District Lawyer Steve Howe cleared Jenison of any wrongdoing a month after the capturing, saying it was a justified use of pressure below Kansas legislation. After her son’s killing, Sheila Albers, who has been a robust advocate for improved psychological well being sources, fashioned JOCO United. The nonprofit has fought for plenty of reforms, together with requiring extra officers endure disaster intervention coaching, and including a co-responder to each shift.
OPCAT was created in 2013 with one disaster intervention staff specialist and one Johnson County Psychological Well being Division co-responder. It grew to 2 CIT specialists and three co-responders in early 2021 earlier than being authorised to increase once more final September.
Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Psychological Well being Heart, mentioned they’ve not too long ago absolutely staffed the six co-responder positions, but in addition had some bother recruiting.
Why there’s a scarcity and what to do
It’s significantly troublesome to rent law enforcement officials for the disaster motion staff.
That is as a result of a brand new recruit not solely has to undergo common coaching, but in addition disaster intervention and specialty coaching, mentioned Capt. Jeff Burvee, the commander of the unit.
It additionally takes a particular form of one who desires to exit to psychological well being calls, that are normally lengthy and take plenty of persistence.
He mentioned that’s the reason they’re additionally recruiting people who find themselves already officers and may be part of the staff extra rapidly.
The Overland Park Police Division as a complete is recruiting officers, and Burvee mentioned their struggles are simply part of a nationwide staffing scarcity amongst legislation enforcement.
Meg Ralph, a spokesperson for Overland Park, additionally mentioned police chief Frank Donchez requested metropolis council within the proposed 2023 funds for $ 142,000 for the police cadet program and a further $ 18,000 for an internship growth program to assist develop the division.
That funds will not be authorised but, and the Overland Park Metropolis Council will assessment, contemplate, have public hearings and finally vote on the funds on September 19.
Regardless of being so short-staffed, the staff is working seven days every week, and officers work 10 hour shifts, Burvee mentioned. To date this 12 months, they’ve responded to only below 700 calls and have completed about 440 follow-ups.
A big a part of what they do is comply with up with folks after their preliminary calls to supply extra sources and get them the assistance they should keep away from extra crises, Burvee mentioned.
Burvee mentioned he hopes to rent three to 4 extra officers by the top of the 12 months.
Success since growth
Sgt. Stewart Introduced, who helped begin the staff, mentioned his officers on the staff are working round all day doing every part they will.
They cannot reply to each name, so when an everyday patrol officer responds to what they suppose is a psychological well being disaster, that officer calls the disaster motion staff in. Introduced mentioned the aim is to take away patrol officers from these conditions and get their staff in at any time when potential.
The staff is making a distinction, even when it is not at full capability but, mentioned Introduced. Their resolution to place the CIT specialists in additional low-key uniforms and unmarked vehicles has helped make folks which can be usually frequent callers extra comfy.
He mentioned some folks don’t need their neighbors or landlords to see police vehicles in entrance of their home for concern of getting evicted, and it has made callers extra welcoming of their assist. There have additionally been a number of cases the place folks have refused to speak to recurrently uniformed patrol officers and as an alternative needed to speak to the extra casually dressed CIT specialists, Introduced mentioned.
A standout case that Introduced mentioned made different officers notice the significance of the staff included a lady who was struggling at college and went to the principal’s workplace.
As she was leaving the workplace, she started self-harming and OPCAT was referred to as. They introduced the fallen remedy canine Haven, and the decision lasted over two hours, however Introduced mentioned their staff calmed the woman down.
“It was the primary time she agreed to hunt remedy, and she or he’d by no means completed that earlier than,” Introduced mentioned.
He mentioned that’s the reason it’s vital to have a staff that isn’t pressured to deal with a name rapidly and transfer onto the subsequent like patrol officers.
Different psychological well being disaster groups
When creating Overland Park’s staff, Introduced mentioned final September that they checked out different departments throughout the state and nation, together with Olathe’s.
Olathe’s Superior Disaster Intervention Crew is an analogous measurement to Overland Park’s proper now, and has grown to a few officers, three full time co-responders and one half time co-responder since 2021. Sgt. Logan Bonney mentioned they’ve not too long ago been authorised so as to add two extra officers to the staff, however that can take a while as a result of they’re ready till patrol staffing will increase barely.
As soon as the division hires extra officers, these can apply to be on their disaster intervention staff and, if authorised, undergo extra specialised coaching too.