LA CROSSE, Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – An area police department is creating a new program dedicated to mental health crises.
First News at Nine’s Alex Loroff explains the new partnership and how it works.
The La Crosse Police Department is putting a greater emphasis on helping people with mental illness.
The department is partnering with La Crosse County to create a co-responder program.
Officers with the department’s Community Resource Unit will respond to calls that may involve mental health issues with mobile crisis workers from the county.
“Through this response method, the La Crosse community will receive expertise from both mobile crisis workers and La Crosse Police Department officers working together to find the best solution for those in need,” La Crosse Police Chief Shawn Kudron said.
La Crosse Police Captain Avrie Schott says the partnership was the logical next step in creating a more effective mental health response.
“This was just that natural progression of how do we serve the community better, how do we as a La Crosse community become better in working with those that live with mental illness,” Schott said.
La Crosse County Board Chair Monica Kruse believes more care is needed when assisting those who deal with mental illness.
“I think we have learned that we cannot arrest our way out of mental illness, it takes crisis intervention techniques, it takes specialized training, and it takes a lot of empathy and a lot of understanding,” Kruse expressed. “I’m hoping that that’s what we will be able to offer to people in crisis with this program.”
The program is the first of its kind in La Crosse County, creating a collaboration that Kudron says is key for helping people going through mental health crises.
“Many people within our community need different levels of resources, and oftentimes there are many people and many entities doing a lot of very good work, but we’re all not connected, and so today is a step where we’re connected from the start,” Kudron added.
Schott says the department will continually assess the program to develop the best practices for mental health response.
In La Crosse, Alex Loroff, First News at Nine.
Officers will also work with people when they aren’t in a crisis to connect them with mental health resources in the community. The co-responder program officially went into service July 9.