HELENA — Law enforcement officers are trained to respond to a multitude of complex situations, but a new team at St. Peter’s Health is partnering with officers and deputies to take some of the pressure off what are some of the most complex calls, those related to mental health.
"Law enforcement has done such a good job over the years and has done the very best but this isn't really their job,” says Kari Koehler, Senior Nursing Director of Inpatient Nursing at St. Peter’s. “They are there and they will stay with our team to make sure everybody stays safe.”
Since November 2020, law enforcement has been able to call St. Peter's Health's new Mobile Crisis Response Team for help responding to calls involving a mental health crisis.
"Somebody who is having suicidal thoughts, it may look at someone who is having a mental health breakdown or some other mental health symptoms that they don't even know and don't know how to manage. In those cases, we would come out and assess," said mobile crisis responder Kristie Stephenson.
Since creating the partnership in November 2020, the crisis team has helped nearly 100 individuals. About three-quarters of those were able to stay in their home or in their own space. The program is funded in part by a $400,000 Lewis and Clark County grant. County leaders say the money has been well spent.
"That's just an incredible reduction of trauma. The person doesn't have to be put in handcuffs and be brought to the emergency room, which causes more trauma than they are already experiencing, they are able to be seen on scene,” Lewis & Clark County Behavioral Health Systems Improvement Specialist Jolene Jennings explained. “I think this is exactly what our goals were and hopefully it will continue."
Mobile crisis team members are also responsible for providing follow-ups as necessary and providing resources to patients to get them back on their feet.
St. Peter's Health says they are hiring two part-time members to join this team.