Minnetonka Police Launch Aftercare Program to Tackle Mental Health Crisis

June 28, 2018 10:33 PM

Coping after crisis is different for everyone.

Minnetonka Police Officer Scott Marks knows it can be difficult, too.


"We would go to these calls and then maybe a half an hour later the people are back at home. And so we ended up having to repeat calls. And then you wonder, 'Is there something we could do different?'" said Marks.

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He says sometimes officers are called back to respond to the same person just a few hours after they've seen a physician and been sent home.

Not every crisis call starts with a mental health issue. Officers can respond to a domestic assault, or even a traffic stop, and end up meeting someone in need of mental health resources.

In Minnetonka alone, calls regarding a mental health crisis and suicidal thoughts or attempts have climbed from fewer than 250 calls in 2015 to 400 in 2017.

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That rapid rise inspired Marks to try a new approach and launch the department's new Crisis Aftercare Program.

Minnetonka officers already do Crisis Intervention Team training to prepare them for the immediate interaction with someone in a crisis situation.

Marks will now help officers translate those skills to aftercare.

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They'll visit the person after their crisis to check in at home or in the hospital alongside a trained therapist from Relate Counseling Center.

"Mental health care should be available to everyone in the community," said Beth Schneider, board president of Relate.

Schneider said they already work with food shelves and schools throughout the southwest metro and partnering with the police department helps them reach even more people who don't currently have the right resources.

"I think the transition is a lot easier rather than us just handing them a business card," said Marks.

The goal is to provide familiar faces two ways: with the officer who responded to the crisis call and someone who can offer services, set up an appointment and take the care from there.

"It really is having a warm face there in a time of crisis and even on follow-ups so if you do decide to make that call to a mental health provider, you've met one," said Schneider. "I think that makes a difference."

Marks is also working to improve Minnetonka officer mental health and wellness.

If this new approach to crisis aftercare works, Marks says he'll teach and train any department that's interested in learning more.


Katherine Johnson

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