Salute the Badge: The battle with mental health

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Mental health is one of the biggest concerns in law enforcement. Sending someone to jail, that doesn’t need to be behind bars.

“We’ve seen somebody really at their worst,” said Shelby Moe, B.A.

When they’re at their worst, is when they need help the most. Moe works for Valeo, but she has a radio. Has a radio number. Is dispatched to calls, and works at the Police Department. It’s a partnership between Valeo, the Topeka Police Department and the Shawnee County Sheriff Office, called the Crisis Intervention Team.

“We get out there and deescalate the situation and try to get them hooked up with resources and make sure that they are safe,” she said.

Often times, when an officer is dispatched to a call, it is because someone is having a mental health issue.

“Last year in 2017 only 2% of all of our mental health contacts went to jail, and that’s out of approximately 1,600 mental health consumer contacts. So, Shelby’s instrumental about getting people services they need instead of then going to jail for something minor typically,” said Sgt. Josh Klamm with the Topeka Police Department.

Moe patrols with officers and deputies talking to people every day when they are needed.

“There’s a lot of times that people are in a crisis situation and they don’t want law enforcement involved. They don’t want to talk to an officer, and they want to talk to someone like myself, that is a little bit less threatening and authoritative,” Moe explained.

But it goes beyond just each call, to consistent follow-up, especially for those who may not have the resources to get the help they need.

“It’s hard to stay on your meds when you’re homeless. It’s hard to stay on any kind of structure ad schedule when you don’t even have a place to live. Some of our folks who are living on the streets that just don’t have a bedside table to put their meds on so when they wake up in the morning and take them. That’s where we come in. That’s where we have to provide as much education as we can,” Moe detailed.

And the need for people like Moe, and the need for the intervention team is growing.

“One in five individuals have a mental health issue. Whether that’s depression all the way to schizophrenia. Just the fact that it’s so prevalent in our country we are starting to see more and more and people are more observant to it than they ever were,” said Sgt. Klamm.

Moe says she is very passionate about the work. Not because it’s a paycheck, but because it makes a difference. In the community, and in someone’s life.

“When you save one person, when you make one person’s day worth living, it’s a huge accomplishment in yourself and it makes you feel good about yourself. That you’re able to a smile on somebody’s face when they don’t have a lot to live for in their mind,” said Moe.

The Crisis Intervention Team will be growing soon. According to Sgt. Klamm, more than 50 percent of officers have gone through a week long training to help with crisis intervention. They also plan on hiring more staff in the future.