Representing a county-wide collaborative committed to reducing the number of persons with mental illness and/or substance abuse issues who are incarcerated for low level crimes, the Unified Government of Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kansas has received a two-year $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.
The planning and implementation grant targets persons with mental health and/or substance abuse issues who come into contact with the criminal justice system primarily through local law enforcement.
“We’re excited about this opportunity to continue working with our community partners – particularly the Wyandotte County Municipal and Probate Courts, the Sheriff’s Office, Wyandot, Inc. and Heartland RADAC – to develop alternatives to jail or hospitalization for persons who can benefit from community-based interventions,” says KCKPD Chief Rick Armstrong. “Because we have done considerable planning and are already in the implementation phase through our collaborative efforts, we will be able to keep advancing these initiatives.”
The grant will fund expanded hours of Wyandot Center’s Crisis Clinic to include weekends, which gives law enforcement an alternative to jail and hospital emergency departments for calls involving mental health and/or substance abuse issues.
Wyandot Center is the county’s designated community mental health center. The Crisis Clinic, located at 1301 North 47th Street in mid-Wyandotte County, is currently open Mondays through Fridays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
With grant funds, Wyandot Center will also add a full-time co-responder position to respond with law enforcement to appropriate calls involving persons with mental health and/or substance use issues. This program will be largely modeled after the Olathe Police Department/Johnson County Mental Health Center program. Wyandot Center will also add two intensive case manager positions that will be responsible for intensive support to persons with mental health and/or substance use issues who come into regular contact with social service agencies and the criminal justice system.
Julie Solomon, Wyandot, Inc.'s chief strategic officer, says this grant builds upon previous initiatives and funding awarded to Wyandotte County collaborative partners. Two years ago, Wyandotte County stakeholders began Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for law enforcement. This 40-hour training helps officers identify common signs and symptoms of mental illness, as well as de-escalation techniques that are often different from traditional police training. The county has 112 officers trained in CIT to date.
Last year, the GAINS Center-Sequential Intercept Mapping (SIM) grant brought 40 key community stakeholders together to identify critical system gaps and strategies to better respond to the needs of adults with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders who are in contact with the criminal justice system. In January 2013, the Unified Government Sheriff’s budget agreed to allocate $154,000 to support a multi-faceted jail diversion program—a key priority identified through the SIM process.
“This Bureau of Justice Assistance grant allows us to take additional steps forward in addressing a tremendous community need,” says Pete Zevenbergen, president and CEO of Wyandot, Inc., the parent company of Wyandot Center. “The goal of our community proposal and plan is to reduce incarceration for this target population, while increasing stabilization through community-based assessment and treatment services. By working together in partnership, and thinking innovatively and collaboratively, we can do this.”
Solomon added, "We are excited about news of this latest grant, which continues to allow our community to move forward with best practice standards at this intersection of mental health/substance abuse/criminal justice systems. We have tremendous synergy and great opportunities in our community right now. We look forward to continued opportunities to create a stronger, more integrated system of care.”