Overland Park police expand mental health response for calls

October 22, 2021 GMT

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The Overland Park Police Department plans to expand its team that responds to calls involving mental health crises, with a goal of diffusing the situations while keeping everyone safe.

The new Overland Park Crisis Action Team will have 12 members and six co-responders, though most of the positions haven’t started yet. Currently, it has two crisis intervention specialists and three co-responders, The Kansas City Star reported.

When the team responds to a mental health call, it will be accompanied by a clinician from Johnson County Mental Health. A therapy dog will also join the team.

“Our whole goal is to bring them in and let them do their job, and (officers are) there to make sure everybody’s safe,” said police Sgt. Stewart Brought.

In September, the Overland Park City Council raised property taxes to create the expanded unit. OPCAT also received a nearly $250,000 grant from the Department of Justice.

“This OPCAT unit, it will save lives,” said Sheila Albers, who has fought for police reforms since her 17-year-old son, John Albers, was killed by an Overland Park officer during a welfare check in January 2018.