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Chief Koval's Blog

Mental Health Officer Team Marks One-Year Anniversary with Exciting Additions

February 11, 2016 7:18 AM

Last week, our nationally recognized specialized police response program serving people with mental illness in our community took another leap forward with the addition of a dedicated in-house Crisis Worker from Journey Mental Health Center.  This type of co-located or co-responder model has emerged as a best practice for police/mental health collaborative responses and many agencies across the country have a similar model in place.  MPD was the first agency in Wisconsin to dedicate officers full time to mental health related cases, is now the first agency in the state to add an in-house clinician to this team and we are grateful to Journey for their commitment to this specific program expansion.

As with any new initiative, the details as to the various ways in which the crisis worker will support MPD and connect individuals with mental illness who generate police contact to necessary mental health services will come into better focus once in place working with the Mental Health Officers, liaisons, and patrol on a regular basis.  To begin, the crisis worker will work 3 days a week at MPD, assigned to the Mental Health Officer Team within the Community Outreach section and as such, will work with the MHOs on follow-up and outreach.  The crisis worker will also be available to respond into the field to support patrol and the MHOs on Emergency Detentions or other mental health calls as they arise. We believe the addition of this in-house crisis worker will improve our collective field response, prevent crises from arising, facilitate hospital and jail diversion, and provide a more effective service overall to people with mental illness.  This is a first for us and for Journey so we expect some unforeseen bumps in the road but given our longstanding partnership with one another, we are confident that this step is the beginning of a new and greatly improved chapter of collaboration.

In addition to the in-house Journey Crisis Worker, in 2016 we will partner with the University of Wisconsin – Madison Sociology Department to further develop our data collection and program evaluation measures.  While the number of specialized police response (SPR) programs across the country has increased significantly in the last 5-10 years, the program specifics vary greatly from department to department and city to city.  The essential elements that these programs seek to employ are universally embraced, but how each department works to enact these elements is as unique as the department itself and the city it serves.  For this reason, few SPRs have established evidence-based program measures or standard program evaluations designed to assess outcomes and community impact.  Through this collaboration with UW researchers, we hope to enhance our data collection moving forward and put in place evaluative measures to help us further improve our program. 

It is clear that the Mental Health Officer Team, which now includes an in-house crisis worker and a researcher from the UW Madison, has proven its value and has moved from pilot status to permanent fixture for the foreseeable future.  We appreciate the overwhelmingly supportive feedback we have received from so many of you – individuals, family members, advocates, partner agencies, case managers, social workers and other mental health service providers, throughout this past year telling us about the various ways in which the addition of our full time Mental Health Officers in 2015 made a positive difference. We are excited about these newest additions to our Mental Health Officer Team and look forward to the bolstered services we believe this type of enhanced collaboration will provide.

For more information and a comprehensive review of the Mental Health Officer initiative in 2015, please see the attached year-end report or contact Captain Kristen Roman at

MHO 2015 Year End Report

This blog was authored by Captain Kristen Roman.

Posted by: Chief Koval

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