KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For more than a decade, Tri-County Mental Health sent their social workers out on 911 calls in an effort to intercede when someone is in a mental health crisis.
“The individuals that you help within your community, that does nothing but strengthen the community,” Sgt. James Morgan with the Smithville Police Department said.
They do this so the correct steps and appropriate resources can be utilized. The organization has a new name, but the mission hasn’t changed.
Now known as Beacon Mental Health, they work with 30 law enforcement agencies in Clay, Platte and Ray counties.
Their Crisis Intervention Training Program is now expanding, and the officers who are a part of this team stress that the work isn’t just helpful, it’s vital.
“We not only take community policing just as something we do, but something that we are very dedicated to it,” Morgan said.
The partnership between Beacon Mental Health and the many agencies they work with is deeper than just showing up to work and trying to get the job done.
Instead, it’s the intersection of enforcement and genuine care for the people they encounter.
“The impact on the individual that we can get resources to is just incredible,” Morgan said.
Morgan has been a police officer for nearly four decades. When asked just how important and vital this program is on a scale of 1 to 10, his answer was simple and straightforward.
“I would rank this program at a 10.”
It is imperative every officer on the road in Smithville has the CIT training.
In some cases, social workers go out on calls with the officers. Most of the time, the departments will get a call, respond and then the officer will turn that report over to the social workers the next day.
Then they will go back out together, connecting the person with the correct resources, as well as building relationships and establishing rapport.
In the end, you have fewer calls to police, less people in jail, and someone got the help they so desperately needed. Now, the program is expanding.
The goal is to reach the youth because as one social worker put it, ‘by doing that, you can change the whole outlook of a home.’
“Looking at it as a family system and providing that family system with resources to meet the basic needs is imperative,” Halley Knudson, who works as a social worker with Beacon Mental Health, said.
When done right, they say these crisis intervention trainings make communities safer because getting help is a good thing.
“It’s very brave and courageous and kind of the first step to the rest of your life,” Knudson said.