116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Hiawatha Police Department gains mental health liaison
HIAWATHA — The Hiawatha Police Department has partnered with Foundation 2, a mental health liaison program, to provide better mental health services to the community.
Foundation 2 works with police departments to provide appropriate care for mental health-related emergency calls, such as stabilization in the community, connection to other community resources, voluntary hospitalization or a crisis stabilization bed.
“We have seen a significant decrease in the number of hours police are spending on mental health calls across the board,” said a statement from Kelly Zepeda, manager of the Mental Health Access Center and Law Enforcement Liaison Program.
Zepeda said Hiawatha Police Chief Dennis Marks reached out to Foundation 2 about getting a mental health liaison after having spoken with other area departments.
The Hiawatha Police Department starting working with mental health liaison Jason Miller in January. Miller has more than 20 years of experience in mental health services, including in the U.S. Army and Mercy Medical Center.
Hiawatha Police Chief Dennis Marks said the first two years of funding for the partnership are coming from American Rescue Plan Act money. Marks said $150,000 of the city’s rescue plan money will be used to pay for Miller’s salary of $68,784 per year for two years, and to cover costs of supplies and training for Miller.
Other local departments that are already working with Foundation 2 include the Cedar Rapids Police Department, Linn County Sheriff’s Office, Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office, Marion Police Department and Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
A mental health liaison’s role is to respond to any 911 calls that deal with mental health. This often means going out with a police officer to respond to a call in-person and helping to de-escalate certain situations, according to Adrianne Korbakes, associate director of crisis services for Foundation 2.
“They also try to work with that follow-up piece. So, after somebody has de-escalated from crisis, being able to connect that individual with longer-term support that will hopefully prevent them from going into crisis again,” Korbakes said.
Zepeda said Miller has been busy since starting in Hiawatha, responding daily with officers to mental health crises. He also receives referrals from officers who may respond to a crisis during a night shift when Miller isn’t working, so that Miller can follow up with people the next day.
“Our goal is to continue to expand the rapid, high-quality mental health services available alongside local law enforcement,” Zepeda said in the release. “We have seen the impact our liaisons can have on individuals and look forward to continuing to expand those connections to best serve our communities in times of crisis.”
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