By BRENT MARTIN
St. Joseph Post
St. Joseph Police Chief Chris Connally says a nearly year-old experiment involving a mental health counselor within the department has worked well in attacking the root causes of some crime.
A mental health liaison from Family Guidance, Kristen Siler, has been working in the department since last February.
Connally says the liaison has helped, especially with cases involving substance abuse accompanied by mental illness.
“When both are involved sometimes they are referred to as co-occurring disorders and that’s definitely has a lot to do with an awful lot of our crime, a lot of things that go on in our community that are a challenge,” Connally tells host Barry Birr on the KFEQ Hotline.
Connally says police always have trouble connecting the mentally ill with the help they need. He says the addition of the mental health worker in the department has helped resolve that, because she has been able to break through barriers which have kept people from reaching out for help.
“Part of the challenge ahead continues to be removing the stigma,” Connally says, pointing out when people get sick, they see a doctor. He says mental illness should be no different.
“The more we can eliminate the stigma, the more open people are to getting help if they need it or sustaining that help that they may need, because we do have a lot of cases where people need counseling and medication and they may not follow through on it.”
Connally says the mental health liaison has made contact with nearly 670 people since she’s been working with police; 175 of those received mental health treatment.
Connally says officers are faced more and more with calls that stem from mental illness.
“For the last several years, we’ve responded to usually between 700 and 800 some persons in crisis that are actually threatening or attempting suicide,” according to Connally. “So, that’s what brought this need over the last several years to surface.”
Connally says the mental health liaison has also made an impact with officers, reaching out to officers who have struggled with the stress of the job.