The Overland Park Disaster Motion Group was able to develop final September from 5 members to 18.
However 9 months after the growth was authorisedtheir staff, which incorporates cops and co-responders, continues to be incomplete with solely 10 individuals.
The six psychological well being co-responder positions are stuffed with two current hires, however there are nonetheless solely 4 specifically educated cops on the staff.
The staff is a partnership between the Overland Park Police Division and the Johnson County Psychological Well being Division to reply to psychological well being calls with professionals educated in disaster intervention. The Overland Park Psychological Well being Process Power beneficial the growth final 12 months and the metropolis council voted 9-1 to approve the funds final September that included a rise in property taxes for the staff. In addition they acquired practically $ 250,000 from the Division of Justice.
Their purpose is to pair specifically educated officers with licensed psychological well being professionals to reply to psychological well being calls. Officers undergo disaster intervention coaching and in addition can do extra superior coaching for specialties like aged, juveniles, homelessness and negotiating.
The push for extra psychological well being initiatives within the county was partially due to the dying of a 17-year-old John Albers in 2018.
Former Overland Park police officer Clayton Jenison responded to Albers’ house after a number of 911 calls stated Albers was making an attempt to kill himself. Jenison fired 13 photographs and struck Albers six occasions whereas he was backing out of the driveway.
Johnson County District Lawyer Steve Howe cleared Jenison of any wrongdoing a month after the capturing, saying it was a justified use of drive beneath Kansas regulation. After her son’s killing, Sheila Albers, who has been a robust advocate for improved psychological well being assets, fashioned JOCO United. The nonprofit has fought for quite a lot of reforms, together with requiring extra officers bear disaster intervention coaching, and including a co-responder to each shift.
OPCAT was created in 2013 with one disaster intervention staff specialist and one Johnson County Psychological Well being Division co-responder. It grew to 2 CIT specialists and three co-responders in early 2021 earlier than being authorised to develop once more final September.
Tim DeWeese, director of the Johnson County Psychological Well being Heart, stated they’ve not too long ago totally staffed the six co-responder positions, but additionally had some bother recruiting.
Why there’s a scarcity and what to do
It’s notably tough to rent cops for the disaster motion staff.
That is as a result of a brand new recruit not solely has to undergo common coaching, but additionally disaster intervention and specialty coaching, stated Capt. Jeff Burvee, the commander of the unit.
It additionally takes a particular form of one that needs to exit to psychological well being calls, that are often lengthy and take a variety of persistence.
He stated that’s the reason they’re additionally recruiting people who find themselves already officers and might be a part of the staff extra shortly.
The Overland Park Police Division as a complete is recruiting officers, and Burvee stated their struggles are simply part of a nationwide staffing scarcity amongst regulation enforcement.
Meg Ralph, a spokesperson for Overland Park, additionally stated police chief Frank Donchez requested metropolis council within the proposed 2023 funds for $ 142,000 for the police cadet program and a further $ 18,000 for an internship growth program to assist develop the division.
That funds just isn’t authorised but, and the Overland Park Metropolis Council will evaluation, think about, have public hearings and finally vote on the funds on September 19.
Regardless of being so short-staffed, the staff is operating seven days per week, and officers work 10 hour shifts, Burvee stated. Up to now this 12 months, they’ve responded to only beneath 700 calls and have completed about 440 follow-ups.
A big a part of what they do is observe up with individuals after their preliminary calls to supply extra assets and get them the assistance they should keep away from extra crises, Burvee stated.
Burvee stated he hopes to rent three to 4 extra officers by the top of the 12 months.
Success since growth
Sgt. Stewart Introduced, who helped begin the staff, stated his officers on the staff are operating round all day doing all the things they will.
They cannot reply to each name, so when an everyday patrol officer responds to what they assume is a psychological well being disaster, that officer calls the disaster motion staff in. Introduced stated the purpose is to take away patrol officers from these conditions and get their staff in each time potential.
The staff is making a distinction, even when it isn’t at full capability but, stated Introduced. Their resolution to place the CIT specialists in additional low-key uniforms and unmarked vehicles has helped make individuals which are typically frequent callers extra snug.
He stated some individuals are not looking for their neighbors or landlords to see police vehicles in entrance of their home for concern of getting evicted, and it has made callers extra welcoming of their assist. There have additionally been a number of situations the place individuals have refused to speak to frequently uniformed patrol officers and as an alternative wished to speak to the extra casually dressed CIT specialists, Introduced stated.
A standout case that Introduced stated made different officers notice the significance of the staff included a woman who was struggling in school and went to the principal’s workplace.
As she was leaving the workplace, she started self-harming and OPCAT was known as. They introduced the fallen remedy canine Haven, and the decision lasted over two hours, however Introduced stated their staff calmed the lady down.
“It was the primary time she agreed to hunt remedy, and he or she’d by no means completed that earlier than,” Introduced stated.
He stated that’s the reason it is important to have a staff that’s not pressured to deal with a name shortly and transfer onto the subsequent like patrol officers.
Different psychological well being disaster groups
When creating Overland Park’s staff, Introduced stated final September that they checked out different departments throughout the state and nation, together with Olathe’s.
Olathe’s Superior Disaster Intervention Group is an identical dimension to Overland Park’s proper now, and has grown to 3 officers, three full time co-responders and one half time co-responder since 2021. Sgt. Logan Bonney stated they’ve not too long ago been authorised so as to add two extra officers to the staff, however that can take a while as a result of they’re ready till patrol staffing will increase barely.
As soon as the division hires extra officers, these can apply to be on their disaster intervention staff and, if authorised, undergo extra specialised coaching too.