Overland Park police meet face-to-face to talk mental health resources, new hotline with residents

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Overland Park officers are joining forces with mental health advocates to discuss how to enhance interactions between people with mental health problems and police.

The goal is to prevent tragic encounters, like what happened in 2018, when an Overland Park police officer shot and killed 17-year-old John Albers.

The Overland Park teen was home alone. He was threatening to hurt himself on social media and had cut himself with a knife. His friends called 911.

When police arrived, he was shot at 13 times by a police officer while backing out of his garage.

More than two years later, on Tuesday night at the Hilltop Convention Center, the city invited the public to talk face to face about programs the police department offers and other available resources.

"We have received quite a few questions about what the city and police department is doing because there is a lot more awareness with individuals going through crisis," said Officer Justin Shepherd , who's also the crisis intervention team coordinator.

"We have been working on this for quite a few years. We’ve had the CIT team since 2014, and the program has been alive in Johnson County since 2005."

The police department's Crisis Intervention Team conducts outreach with individuals suffering from mental health issues and responds to crisis situations. 

Shepherd said these encounters are more common than people may think.

A national survey said police officers average six encounters with people with mental illness per month.

“It is extremely important, being able to focus on how to be able to change, adapt, get additional education and to be able to expand on the idea of helping individuals going through mental health crisis," Shepherd said. "We have to be able to make those changes."

The department is also promoting their new Co-Responder/CIT Main Line.

The number -- 913-890-1CIT (1248) -- provides instant access to Crisis Intervention Team officers and the Mental Health Crisis Line with Johnson County Mental Health. 

Shepherd said more educational and mental health symposiums are planned around Johnson County in the future.

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