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Nine Additional Cities join Johnson County’s co-responder program

JOHNSON COUNTY, KAN. – Nine additional cities in Northeast Johnson County will now be participating in the Johnson County Mental Health Center’s co-responder program. The program supports police in dealing with mental health or substance abuse issues. With these additional cities, 13 cities will now have mental health professionals to assist the police department on calls involving potential mental health concerns. 

With the recent Board of County Commissioners’ decision to authorize the creation of a full-time position at the Mental Health Center, the individual, once hired, will be able to provide crisis intervention assistance to the police departments in the cities of Leawood, Prairie Village, Merriam, Roeland Park, Mission, Fairway, Westwood, Westwood Hills, and Mission Hills. Funding of mental health professional will be shared by the nine municipalities.

Partnership in the program allows a mental health professional to accompany police officers on calls that involve a potential mental health situation. The goal is to provide individuals experiencing a mental health issue quicker access to services and keep them out of jail or the emergency room. 

“This is just another example of how our communities’ understand the importance of a strong mental health safety-net and how agencies from across the county are collaborating to serve the public efficiently and effectively,” said Tim DeWeese, Director of the Johnson County Mental Health Center.

The Mental Health Center implemented the co-responder program as a pilot project in 2011 with the Olathe Police Department. Since then, the program has expanded to police departments in Overland Park (2013), Shawnee, and Lenexa (both in early 2016).

In 2015, dispatchers called for a co-responder to assist on 1,184 combined calls in Olathe and Overland Park. Out of those calls, law enforcement placed the offending individual in jail just 23 times, or just 1.9 percent of the time. Officers also only placed the individual in an emergency room 49 times, or just 4.1 percent.

The co-responder program has received a 2016 Achievement Award in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Category from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The award honors innovative, effective county government programs throughout the nation that enhance services for residents. The award will be presented at NACo’s Annual Conference and Exposition July 22–25 in Los Angeles County, California. 

About Johnson County, Kansas
Located in the southwestern quadrant of the Kansas City Metropolitan Region, Johnson County, Kansas is a community of choice with a current population of nearly 580,000, making it the most populated of the 105 counties in Kansas, but traditionally having the lowest mill levy in the state. For more information visit the county’s website at www.jocogov.org.