The Johnson County Mental Health Center Co-Responder Program adds the services of
a qualified mental health professional to a police department's patrol division.
The co-responder's primary responsibility is to respond with a law enforcement officer on calls where mental illness is identified as a potential contributing factor. This partnership enables the mental health professional to conduct an immediate face-to-face assessment of the risk posed by individuals involved in a police encounter. Furthermore, the co-responder can provide effective intervention and link individuals to services right away to prevent the over-utilization of jails and emergency rooms.
Through a 2011 Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the city of Olathe became the first community in Johnson County to embed a Johnson County Mental Health Center co-responder in their police department. In 2013, an expansion grant award allowed the city of Overland Park to begin the co-responder program in their police department.
Today, five qualified mental health professionals are working with law enforcement agencies in fourteen Johnson County communities. Since the program's inception, Olathe now has two co-responders; Overland Park has a co-responder; Lenexa and Shawnee began sharing a co-responder in 2016; and as of 2017, Leawood, Prairie Village, Merriam, Mission, Mission Hills, Mission Woods, Roeland Park, Fairway, Westwood and Westwood Hills share a co-responder who is embedded in the police departments serving these communities. In 2018, Overland Park plans to add another co-responder, and Lenexa and Shawnee also plan to add a co-responder so each police department will have their own. This year, Johnson County EMS System has also piloted a Johnson County Mental Health Center co-responder with their Fire/EMS providers.
Since its inception almost 350 community members with mental health needs have been connected to services that allowed them to avoid waiting for help in jail cells or emergency rooms.