Community Counseling Center & Cape Girardeau Police Department collaborate to improve mental health response

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KBSI) – As Mental Health Awareness Month continues, FOX 23 is committed to breaking the stigma surrounding mental health treatment and care.

The Community Counseling Center, in collaboration with the Cape Girardeau Police Department, has established two co-responder positions aimed at enhancing the response to mental health-related calls.

Cape Girardeau Police Chief Wes Blair emphasized the benefits of this partnership, stating, “Being alongside us the social workers and the expertise of Community Counseling Center, they can go out with us and respond to those individuals, helping them access the services they need while allowing our officers to focus on law enforcement activities.”

Shawni Miller, Supervisor at the Community Counseling Center, explained that the idea for the partnership emerged from instances where clients experiencing a mental health crisis would unknowingly summon law enforcement.

Miller stated, “Without that collaboration, we never knew they were in that crisis because law enforcement were the ones arriving on the scene.”

The collaboration between the Community Counseling Center and the Cape Girardeau Police Department resulted in the creation of the co-responder unit.

Comprised of two behavioral officers, this unit works closely with the police department to address mental health-related calls.

Rachel Alcantara, one of the co-responders, shared that their presence significantly reduced response times to 13 minutes when dealing with mental health situations.

Alcantara explained, “We secure the scene, and then the officers go back to patrol while we take over, triage the situation, and determine the best course of action for the individual involved.”

Dr. Shannon Farris, the other co-responder, emphasized the positive impact of this collaboration on the community, particularly in terms of resource allocation and ensuring individuals receive appropriate help.

Dr. Farris stated, “This has a huge impact on the community because we’re reducing major bills in the emergency room and avoiding unnecessary detentions in jails. Most individuals facing mental health challenges require connection to other services, not incarceration.”

The partnership between the Community Counseling Center and the Cape Girardeau Police Department exemplifies the importance of collaboration in improving mental health response and support within the community.

By combining resources and expertise, this initiative aims to create a more effective and compassionate approach to addressing mental health-related crises.

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