Cape Girardeau Co-Responder Program brings mental health professionals to the front lines

A new Co-Responder program between the Cape Police Dept. and the Community Counseling center aims to bring quick mental health help to those in need
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 5:11 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - A new Co-Responder Program between the Cape Girardeau Police Department and the Community Counseling Center aims to bring quick mental health help to those experiencing a crisis.

Now, inside some patrol cars, Cape Girardeau police will have someone riding by their side.

“Responding with law enforcement to behavioral health related calls,” Savannah Martin said.

Savannah is a licensed clinical social worker. She is also the Behavioral Health Crisis Center’s program manager. They will have trained mental health professionals joining police to respond to mental health calls.

“They’ll be getting training from both the law enforcement side and the mental health side, to make sure they’re ready to respond to these calls,” Martin said.

Corporal Ryan Droege with Cape Girardeau Police Department is excited to bring this program to Cape Girardeau. He said they have seen bigger cities utilize similar programs the past few years, and they have had their eye on it.

“I think it’s needed in every community,” Droege said.

When the co-responders aren’t on a call, the program allows them to go into the community and be proactive.

“Getting out to them and talking to them, seeing what their story is, and what’s going on with them in their lives,” Cpl. Droege said. “Seeing if there’s a way we can get them on a good path.”

Martin said people in crisis typically call 911. With this program, they’ll have a behavioral health professional in the field with police.

“It will just really help give a better response to those who are experiencing, suicidal ideation, mental health crisis, homelessness, whatever it may be,” Martin said.

And when people do make that call, responders can stay in touch after the initial response.

“Somebody checking in saying, ‘hey, what do you think, would you like me to take you over there’, so they can provide some follow-up,” Martin said.

According to Cpl. Droege, officers are looking forward to offering a better response for those in need.

“We want them getting the help they need and living their happy, healthy, productive lives,” he said.

The Community Counseling Center is actively looking to fill the positions to be able to get the program started.