JoCo police departments to employ trained specialists for mental health calls

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PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. -- Starting soon, ten police departments in Johnson County will have a trained specialist assisting officers on mental health calls. The new initiative aims to better help people facing depression, anxiety and other disorders.

Now one metro mother wonders if this new specialist would’ve saved her daughter’s life.

“The minute I open my eyes, I think of her. When I go to bed at night she's the last one I think of.”

For Beverly Stewart, it feels like it was just yesterday. She heard over the radio, a 47-year-old was shot and killed by police in her Prairie Village apartment.

“I thought 'Oh my god, I hope it's not Susan,'" Stewart said.

But it was. Police responded to a 911 call from Susan Stuckey. She was suicidal, threatening to burn down the complex. Officers broke down her door and Stuckey had a knife.

An officer shot her three times, killing her.

“You go through, 'I should've, I could've I would've.' You think about all those things,” Stewart said.

Stewart said her daughter had been raped twice and battled a deep depression. While the department said it followed protocol, Stewart wishes more could have been done to save her daughter’s life.

“That was the worst day of my entire life. I'll never get over it.”

Although the department’s newest initiative might not have saved Susan, Steward believes it will save people who face the same battles her daughter did.

This year, ten police departments in Johnson County are teaming up with a trained specialist to help them respond to mental health calls. The specialist will work the hours those calls come in most frequently and be available to help all the departments.

“There could be many people out there, whose lives could be saved by having this specialist.”

The ten cities will split the cost of the specialist -- $95,000. The specialist will start at this department later on this year.

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