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Waterloo PD and social worker partnership connects those in crisis with mental health services

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WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) - After months of social workers working with the Waterloo Police Department, the need for mental health assistance in the city has become apparent.

Social workers with Elevate CCBHC joined forces with Waterloo Police in February. They're meant to help in situations related to mental health or those in crisis.

The social workers with the police department have responded to over 1,400 crisis calls since the start of the partnership. Those involved say the program benefits the community.

“I feel every week we are being utilized more and more and more," Lead Law Enforcement Liaison Trisha Duitsman said.

Referred to as "Law Enforcement Liaisons" the social workers ride with patrol officers nearly every shift in order to help deescalate certain situations.

“We use the access center, the crisis center, if they need to go to black hawk Grundy for medication. Anything that we can do to step in and make sure they get the help that they need, that’s what we do," Duitsman said.

Waterloo Police partnered with Elevate not long after the behavioral health center opened in Waterloo.

Three social workers make up the team of liaisons to intervene when necessary.

“Sometime just wearing a uniform alone can escalate a situation, so by having an employee that’s in plain clothes who does not work for the department it’s just a partnership, sometimes they build connections or rapports with these," Waterloo PD Lieutenant Kye Richter said.

In the last few months, Elevate enrolled 92 people after responding to calls alongside officers. That doesn't include the people who were connected to other resources outside the behavioral health center.

Calls the team respond to include those experiencing mental health episodes. overdoses, domestic assault, and other crisis situations.

"It can be very heavy emotionally and it can be very draining," Duitsman said.

Everyone involved knows there are likely more people in need of mental health assistance than the ones represented in the data collected.

“It shows that we’re trying. We’re trying to meet the needs of society," Lt. Richter said.

Waterloo Police plans to certify all officers in crisis intervention to better understand how to handle situations they may encounter.

Duitsman and Lt. Richter both hope to further this partnership by adding to the team of social workers so they can cover more of the city.

“We all want what’s best for the community, and we want to help. That’s what we came here to do," Duitsman said.

The police department also hopes to create a larger crisis team, with unmarked cars and officers not in uniform. If you or someone you know is in crisis, Elevate CCBHC has a variety of resources:

Call Your Life Iowa at 855-581-8111 or text 855-895-8398 and you will speak with a crisis counselor and they could dispatch the Mobile Crisis Team to your location within an hour or less. We offer onsite and in-person interventions to those experiencing a mental health crisis. We are here to help you where you are!

For an appointment call 833-370-0719 or walk in at 604 Lafayette St 2nd floor Fowler building Waterloo, Iowa 50703: Business hours Monday – Thursday 8:00am to 7:00pm and Fridays 8:00am to 5:00pm (weekend appointments as needed).

Find us on Facebook: Elevate CCBHC

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Diego Hernandez

Multimedia Journalist

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