Douglas Co. Sheriff creates way to look out for first responders long after he retires

TOPEKA, Kan, (WIBW) -- Ken McGovern became the Douglas County Sheriff in 2005, and nearly 15 years he plans to retire at the end of his term.

"You know I told myself when I first started when I stopped having fun you know it was time to get out. Well I'm still having fun, but you know it's time to move on to something else,” McGovern said.

However, with more than a year left on the job, McGovern is still pretty busy. He’s been spending a lot of time on his phone.

"So all the first responders in Douglas County will have this app. And it's a wellness and mental health awareness and all kinds of different things that we feel our staff needs,” he said.

For months, he worked with other departments to help create GuardianNet. It’s an app that provides first responders and their families in Douglas County access to confidential support resources.

"We have our peer support teams in one area, our Chaplains in one area, some of our county EAPs, City EAPs, and we were trying to figure out where the officers and staff could find those,” McGovern explained.

McGovern said having a career in law enforcement is not easy, and around the clock access to that information can be life changing.

"Unfortunately suicide among first responders is high and so we're trying to help with those. Wellness you know our sleeping patterns gets messed up,” he added.

This is not the first time McGovern addressed mental health issues during his 37 year career.

He worked with Bert Nash Community Health Center to help create the Stepping Up Initiative.

"You go into the jail and you deteriorate or you know how do we connect them with their services once they get out so they don't fall between the cracks you know and then they're back in again,’ McGovern added.

As he continues to care for his staff so they can care for others, McGovern said what he’ll miss the most is the people.

"You know I've been in Lawrence since 1972, so I've seen the town grow and I still know a lot of people and getting to know more people,” he explained.