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Coralville, North Liberty and Johnson County will share a mental health law enforcement liaison
The police departments in Coralville and North Liberty will work with the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and CommUnity Crisis Services to hire a shared mental health liaison.
On Tuesday, city council members in Coralville and North Liberty approved a memorandum of understanding outlining the agreement. Johnson County Sheriff Brad Kunkel said he will sign the memorandum once he receives the agreements from North Liberty and Coralville.
The liaison will be hired by CommUnity, but they will work directly with the law enforcement agencies to respond to and follow up on mental health crises that officers encounter.
“We deal with a lot of mental health crisis issues every day. We can handle the call, but our ability to follow up, follow these people, get them services down the road, is pretty limited, because we’re on to the next call,” Coralville Police Chief Shane Kron told city council members in Tuesday’s meeting. “So, we envision this position as being somebody that can pick the ball up and move it forward from our initial contact and make sure that we get the follow up and close the loop.”
The Mental Health/Disability Services of the East Central Region of Iowa has agreed to pay for the liaison for the first year. In the second year, CommUnity will cover the majority of the salary and benefits for the liaison, with the law enforcement agencies covering 25 percent of the price. In the third year, the agencies will increase their portion to 50 percent, and in the fourth year it will increase to 75 percent.
The current contract only lasts four years, but stipulates that if the agreement is renewed, the law enforcement agencies will continue covering 75 percent of the cost for each subsequent year.
The agencies reached out to the East Central Region a couple of years ago to request funding for a shared liaison and were denied. The region came back to the agencies this year asking if they were still interested, North Liberty Police Chief Diane Venenga said.
“This is exciting. It’s going to grow,” Venenga told North Liberty Council members in Tuesday’s meeting. “I think the funding was there at the state level for this region and they needed folks to come forward and spend it.”
The liaison will be hired by CommUnity, with input from the law enforcement organizations, and they will work out of an office in the North Liberty Police Department. Part of the liaison’s role will be referring people to the GuideLink Center, an adult mental health and substance use care center.
CommUnity has already begun the liaison interview process and has narrowed down the applicant pool to two people, according to Kron and Venenga.
CommUnity has worked with other local police departments in the past to create similar liaison roles. In 2021, CommUnity hired a mental health liaison who works with the Iowa City Police Department.
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