Police in nine Johnson County cities will gain the ability later this year to call on professional help when dealing with people who are having mental health crises, are suicidal or are dealing with alcohol or drug emergencies.
On Monday, the Prairie Village City Council was the latest to sign on to a memorandum of understanding between the cities and the Johnson County Mental Health Center to provide a mental health professional, called a “co-responder,” who could respond to police calls in the cities and defuse dangerous situations. Prairie Village alone averages about 120 mental health calls a year.
The other cities include Leawood, which would serve as the program’s home base, as well as Merriam, Mission, Mission Hills, Mission Woods, Roeland Park, Fairway, Westwood and Westwood Hills.
Besides police emergencies, the co-responder also would provide mental health referrals, coordinate care for the people involved, review police reports and work with families to prevent mental health and substance abuse problems from leading to criminal charges.
Supporters said having a co-responder on the scene would prevent officers from having to rely on their own limited mental health training or reaching a professional by phone.
Prairie Village Police Chief Tim Schwartzkopf said the co-responder would likely work weekday and early evenings and monitor police calls by radio, driving to the scene of emergencies.
“The officer can react to the situation, but if time is on our side, we can wait for the co-responder to arrive,” Schwartzkopf said.
The program is expected to cost $94,664 a year, not including overtime, with each city’s share based on population. Prairie Village, with roughly 23 percent of population, would pay $22,055. Leawood, with 36 percent, would pay the most at $34,452 while Westwood Hills, with less than 1 percent of total population would pay $370.
Schwartzkopf said the cities are planning to all approve the memorandum by the end of the month, and the program would start during the fourth quarter of the year.
In other business, city officials said a pending deal where the Consolidated Fire District No. 2 planned to buy part of the Municipal Complex at 7700 Mission Road for a new fire station has fallen through.
Assistant City Administrator Wes Jordan said the fire district determined from updated plans for the station that the 0.9-acre location it has proposed for months was actually too small and that it would need more land. However, he said that wasn’t possible.
“It would be very disruptive to our parking lot,” Jordan told the council.
He said the district will reconsider expanding its current station at 90th Street and Roe Avenue. The district had sought a more centrally located station site to be closer to the bulk of its emergency calls.
The council also got its first look at the 2017 city budget.
Budget director Lisa Santa Maria said the spending plan would not require a change from the current city property tax rate of 19.5 mills, or $448.50 on a house appraised at $200,000.
The council is scheduled to approve the budget this summer ahead of it going into effect Jan. 1.
Also, Public Works Director Keith Bredehoeft told the council his department is aggressively working to control mosquitoes in the city amid concerns about the Zika virus, which spreads through bites from infected mosquitoes.
Bredehoeft said the city would flush stormwater channels and check other areas where standing water might gather and provide a breeding ground for mosquitoes.
The Kansas City area has seen no confirmed cases of Zika, which is linked to severe birth defects in pregnant women.
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