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New program in Olmsted County partners police with mental health specialists

ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX47) — A new partnership between police and mental health specialists launched last week in Olmsted County.

It’s called the “Co-responder Model,” and its goal is to work with police to identify someone in a mental health crisis, and help them get treatment. The program was conceived last July, and after months of training, three Olmsted County community outreach specialists got to work last week.

Leaders of the program said there is unmet need in the community– where people’s mental health issues were falling through the cracks. Sometimes, these people end up the criminal justice system without treatment for their mental health diagnosis. The outreach specialists help law enforcement identify situations where people may need psychiatric or substance abuse services.

Program manager Nikki Niles said it’s a partnership with police and that they aren’t trying to replace law enforcement.

“We also recognize that this work sometimes is exclusively in the law enforcement lane,” Niles said. “And we’re respective of that. So, once those things calm down, we can always come in after the fact to render services. But community safety is the first priority for all of this, and we want our community and our residents to be safe.”

On Tuesday, Rochester police called an outreach specialist to assist with an aggressive man who was not taking his medication. Both entities worked together, and the man was able to get follow-up care at a hospital.

Niles said the specialists are already receiving a lot of calls from people needing services and advice. They can refer people to treatment centers across the state. They are currently seeking a fourth specialist to join the team.

Those who have questions or are in need of services can reach an outreach specialist by calling 507-328-6348, or emailing them at olmstedcountycos@co.olmsted.mn.us.

Megan Zemple

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