Organization Name: Omaha Police Department and Lutheran Family Services
Mission: “The Omaha Police Department, in partnership with our community, provides impartial, transparent, ethical, and professional law enforcement service and guardianship. We strive to maintain the trust and confidence of our citizens and employees while working to improve the quality of life.”
“Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska expresses God’s love for all people by providing quality human care services that build and strengthen individual, family and community life.”
Funded Program Description: The Omaha Police Department in partnership with Lutheran Family Services and the Behavioral Health Support Foundation have been awarded funding to support the growth, development and implementation of a Health, Wellness, Crisis Intervention Unit. Funding for this HWCIU includes support for a Mental Health Coordinator for OPD as well as 5 contracted Co-Responder mental health practitioners embedded in the department. HWCIU combines the resources of a uniformed police officer with a licensed clinician in responding to persons in a mental health crisis. Co-Responders self-dispatch to active 911 mental health related calls for service. They provide follow-up and proactive outreach to individuals who require ongoing monitoring to assist with resource acquisition and increased stability and decrease a reliance on the public safety system to get their mental health needs met. The overarching goal is to divert individuals from incarceration and hospitalization when there are other options to meet their immediate needs in the least restrictive way. The HWCIU is instrumental in breaking down stigma related to mental health topics and providing training to officers including officer wellness and resiliency.
Successes of Program or Inspirational Stories: The development of this program has allowed for improved data collection, monitoring of mental health related calls for service and community collaboration for the OPD. This allows for the development of strategic response to address the needs of the community to ensure access and utilization of community resources.
The impact of this program is profound. Here is just one example out of many demonstrating the impact of this program.
A young adult had been frequently utilizing 911 as a coping mechanism when experiencing any level of suicidal ideation or distress. This individual‘s contacts with police led to aggression, use of force, booking/arrest and emergency protective custody placements. A sergeant referred the consumer to the Co-responder for intervention. The Co-responder and consumer collaboratively built ongoing stability plans to reduce unneeded booking or EPC by encouraging consumer to utilize Co-responder contact, and other community resources when feeling distressed rather than calling 911. Over the past 3 months calls to 911 were cut in half when compared to the 3 months prior to involvement with the Co-responder. After one outreach, the consumer reported he was glad he reached out, and said he likely would have called 911 had the Co-responder not assisted with de-escalation and encourage healthy coping mechanisms. He acknowledged that had he called 911, he likely would have gotten violent and been arrested. The impact of this collaboration created increased stability for this consumer, reduced 911 calls, and as of now, there have been no additional bookings or EPCs.
Other Comments: This collaboration between the Omaha Police Department and Lutheran Family Services is a testament to the community we serve. This collaborative approach to provide the right intervention at the right time allows for individuals to be treated in the least restrictive environment with compassion and professionalism. The HWCIU is instrumental in assisting with additional training and education to officers around mental health related topics to improve their response and interactions with the public.