People with mental health issues who are not criminals are often jailed for minor offenses, creating jail overcrowding, when they could be routed instead to the mental health treatment system. That is the premise of a two-hour conference going on today at The Center for Counseling and Consultation in Great Bend, said Dr. Tom Bauer, MD, a retired internist in Great Bend.
Bauer will emcee the conference “Developing a Community Response: Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) in Barton and Surrounding Counties.” Speakers will include Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir, Pawnee County Attorney Doug McNett, and Sedgwick County Deputy Narcisco Narvais.
“Maybe 10 percent of those in jail are mentally ill,” Bauer said. While staff at the jail struggle to deal with overcrowding, often mentally ill inmates don’t actually belong there because they’re not criminals, he said.
“There are people in jail that probably should not be there,” Sheriff Bellendir agreed. Sometimes, the sheriff’s office has temporary custody of someone who hasn’t even committed a crime. An example might be someone who acts out or creates a disturbance in a place of business or at a hospital.
“I can’t put them in jail,” Bellendir said. The responding officer may have to hold that person until the BSCO gets either an order to release or an order to take the person to Larned State Hospital.
After hearing about the problem, Bauer said he, along with Julie Kramp, executive director at The Center, and Gail Sullivan, The Center’s director of clinical services, started looking for other solutions in the community. “We’re trying to put together a CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) for Barton and hopefully surrounding counties. Other organizations are here, but there’s nothing that deals with this problem.”
The concept of the national Crisis Intervention Team program was started in 1988 by the Memphis, Tenn., Police Department in response to a critical incident that occurred in the city involving an officer tragically shooting and killing a person who was suffering from a brain disorder. The CIT model led to training for law enforcement officers responding to persons living with mental illness. The Crisis Intervention Team program is also a community partnership among county attorney’s offices, mental health agencies, law enforcement agencies, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, consumers and family members.
Now two dozen community leaders are involved in creating the Great Bend/Barton Crisis Intervention Task Force. Other entities or individuals that have gotten involved include McNett; Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) Crisis Intervention Team and Veterans Program Coordinator Matthew McGuire; Great Bend Police Chief David Bailey; U.S. Congressman Roger Marshall; Brian Jarman from the Substance Abuse Center of Kansas (SACK); Tisha Darland with Crisis and Outpatient Services at ComCare of Sedgwick County; Great Bend City Attorney Robert Suelter; Kansas Rep. Tory Marie Arnberger; Kansas Sen. Mary Jo Taylor; Jennifer Schartz, Barton County Commissioner and Community Mental Health Center (CMHC) board member; Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis; Great Bend businessman Mark Mingenback; Jesse Mock, CEO of KU Health System-Great Bend Campus; Quenla McGilber from the Barton County Health Dept.; Tammy Hammond from Rosewood Services; Gaila Demel from United Way of Central Kansas; and Regan Reif and Megan Barfield, Great Bend Chamber of Commerce.