Mental health professionals join forces with Cape Girardeau police

Cape Police have a new tool in their arsenal when it comes to mental health calls. Experts who they can call in to what can be a tricky situation
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 4:50 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 10, 2023 at 6:15 PM CST
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Cape Girardeau police have a new tool in their arsenals when it comes to mental health calls.

Their new co-responders unit includes experts officers can call on to help deal with tricky situations.

Dr. Shannon Farris and Rachel Alcantara are Cape Girardeau Police Department’s co-responders. They’re trained mental health professionals.

Dr. Farris said that having professionals in that field will make a difference.

“Well, what if we actually had mental health professionals with everyone else, as the co-responders, could we make a difference there,” Dr. Farris explained.

Alcantara said that the program will be beneficial to creating better relationships between the police department and counselors.

“It’s a program that is going to bridge Cape Girardeau Police Department and Community Counseling Center,” Alcantara said.

Corporal Will Rogers with the CGPD believes the program will be an asset to the police department.

“We have a great group of guys that have really gotten used to dealing with mental health calls; however, we don’t have all the answers,” Cpl. Rogers said. “When an officer gets to a call and realizes maybe this isn’t someone committing a crime, it’s just someone in a mental health crisis, now they’re able to call for a co-responder to the scene.”

The co-responders unit isn’t only there to de-escalate a mental health crisis. They can help connect a person to the best place to get help.

“The bottom line is, police aren’t trained in mental health like the rest of us are, if this is more of a mental health issue, then police can go about their business as they should,” Dr. Farris said. “Get them to a service that is needed. Most people don’t need police and most people don’t need ERs, what about all of that in between.”

Alcantara said this approach is safer for the community, the police and the person in crisis.

“An edge of authority that sometimes is helpful, and then with the mental health side, when it’s a mental health call, we can sometimes identify things that maybe the police haven’t been trained in to identify,” Alcantara said.

Both co-responders worried that they would feel like outsiders working in the police department as mental health professionals. They say they’ve been welcomed with open arms.

“To be a part of a police force that truly wants to help its community, to not only protect and serve, but support,” Farris said.

Dr. Farris believes this emphasis on mental health will make a big impact on the community.

“If we’re able to shine a light on what’s going on with a person and what real service they need, then that’s really fantastic,” Farris said. “That is a meaningful and purposeful connection with a person who is most likely experiencing the worst day of their life.”

Cpl. Rogers said the unit has seen great successes in the past few weeks.

Cape Girardeau police are the second department in the state to adopt this program.