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Waterloo Police implement new mental health guideline

WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) – The Waterloo Police Department implemented a new guideline the first week of October that discusses how an officer should determine if someone dealing with a mental health crisis should be taken to jail or to a facility for treatment.

“We were taking too many people to jail. However, we have citizens in our community who are suffering from a mental health crisis,” said Waterloo Police Chief Dan Trelka.

Chief Trelka hopes the guideline will help officers determine someone struggling could be better served by going to a detox center or a hospital, depending on the situation they’re dealing with.

“A great resource for us is the emergency room,” said Trelka.

“We’re both very concerned with getting those people to the right place and getting them to the help they need,” said Rachael Lindaman, the manager at the Allen Hospital Emergency Department.

Lindaman says she’s seen the relationship between her staff and the police evolve. She says a big component of their dynamic is trust.

“We are all well versed in how to bring down that patient from a crisis mode, typically we have one person who speaks to that patient because what we’ve found in that training is that when you have a room full of people and everyone’s trying to talk to that patient, it’s too much,” said Lindaman.

Chief Trelka says law enforcement is still learning, but he’s optimistic this is a step in the right direction.

“A better alternative to jail is treatment. Pure, plain, and simple,” said Trelka.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness says about 37,000 Iowans deal with a serious mental illness every day.

SUICIDE HOTLINE: 1-800-273-8255

Black Hawk-Grundy Mental Health Center

Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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