OLATHE, Kan. — Police officers are there to protect and serve in ways many people may not consider.
In Johnson County, there’s an emphasis on mental health and a program that allows officers at a crime scene to request professional help for members of the public.
Some police scenes require something extra.
Nine years ago, the Olathe Police Department became the first Johnson County law enforcement agency to offer mental health co-responders.
When an officer discovers someone in crisis during a call for service, that officer can ask for backup from a mental health worker. They’re trained to help people who may be threatening to harm themselves or others due to mental illness.
“My concern is making sure someone stays alive in the moment I’m there with them,” said Jordyn Chaffin, a mental health co-responder with Olathe Police Department.
“Sometimes, it’s not a matter of convincing them to keep going. Sometimes, it’s a matter of showing them how they can keep going for the next hour or next day, and then what treatment or resources can we get to them,” she said.
Nowadays, 15 law enforcement agencies in Johnson County employ mental health co-responders.
Johnson County’s Sheriff’s Office added a mental health co-responder last year, according to Jessica Murphy, who manages the program via the Johnson County Mental Health Department. Murphy also said one co-responder is assigned to the Gardner-Edgerton School District.
“When someone gets that treatment on the front end, they’re going to go through the criminal justice system more successfully,” Murphy said.
“When Jordyn goes out, she’s able to work with the family and the officers right there on their couch rather than having to get them to a hospital with all these co-pays and tell their story four times. It’s a more trauma-informed approach as well.”
This program might be at its most useful period right now. Police said they’ve seen an uptick in mental health care cases since this year’s pandemic and recession have added stress and concern to many people’s lives.
Olathe Police tell FOX4 people who find themselves in sudden mental health crises are welcome to call 911. However, the Johnson County Mental Health Department suggests their 24-hour hotline as a better option. That number is 913-268-0156.
If you are thinking of hurting or killing yourself, you can also call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Please get help immediately.