TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - In a crisis, Sergeant Josh Klamm must be calm.
“If you push the situation too fast or two hard the jumper’s on the edge,” said Klamm. “It doesn’t take much for them to just go off.”
Klamm is the newest member of Topeka PD’s Behavioral Health Unit specializing in mental health crises.
“Unfortunately here in Topeka we have a large number of individuals with mental health needs and we see a lot of those out on the street unfortunately,” Klamm said.
Klamm’s experience spans 13 years of tackling tough criminal activity.
“We would see a problem and take it head on, whether it be a drug house, whether it be a gang issue, whatever the case is where our main focus is find the main person involved and put them in prison,” Klamm said.
But now his goal is to keep people out of prison. As a certified Crisis Intervention Team Supervisor, he works daily with a Valeo Behavioral Health crisis co-responder to tackle underlying issues.
“I just ask them what they need, you know, what’s going on with them right now,” said Klamm. “If it’s something real minor, they’re hungry, they’re thirsty.”
Sometimes it takes a little creativity.
“We de-escalated a situation the other day by going to get a cup on sonic ice and ice water,” said Klamm. “That’s what that individual needed to calm down? No problem we went and got him some sonic ice.”
“It’s an eye opening experience,” Crisis coresponder, Shelby Moe, said. She works with Klamm.
“It’s a totally different environment when you’re working with people in their environment versus in a crisis facility,” said Klamm.
She says the partnership between Valeo and law enforcement gives Topekans struggling with mental health access to more resources.
“I think that they need a voice and they need that advocacy and they need that bridge to services and being able to be that person is really important to me,” Moe said.
Klamm says thanks to CIT training he has a whole new approach to law enforcement.
“I look at different avenues to go instead of just here’s my problem let’s take them to jail which was my approach when I was a younger officer,” Klamm said.
Klamm says if you approach someone on the street struggling with mental illness you can call 911 and request a CIT trained officer.
Currently 65% of Topeka PD is CIT trained.