Public Safety

$222,000 grant to help Cedar Rapids police expand mental health liaison program

Department works with Foundation 2 to assist people in crisis

Nicole Watters, a law enforcement liaison with Foundation 2, leads a crisis intervention training this past February at Whipple Auditorium in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. In her position, she assists officers who respond to situations involving those with a mental health issue. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Nicole Watters, a law enforcement liaison with Foundation 2, leads a crisis intervention training this past February at Whipple Auditorium in the Cedar Rapids Public Library. In her position, she assists officers who respond to situations involving those with a mental health issue. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Police Department received a $222,345 federal grant to expand its mental health liaison program that seeks to keep people in crisis out of jail.

The grant will be used to enhance a previous federal grant that enabled the department to partner with Foundation 2 to create a law enforcement liaison position with the goal of connecting those experiencing mental health issues to appropriate resources.

An employee of Foundation 2, the liaison works out of the Cedar Rapids Police Department and goes with officers on calls involving people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.

The liaison directs people in need of assistance to available resources, thereby diverting them from jails or emergency rooms.

The majority of the new grant funds will be used over the next three years to add a second mental health liaison employed by Foundation 2. The police department also would assign an officer dedicated to assisting the mental health liaisons as part of the grant matching requirements.

The grant announced Wednesday was awarded from the FY19 Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program through the U.S. Department of Justice.

The liaison position was established in February 2018. That year alone, more than 200 people were connected to resources or received service referrals through the liaison.

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The program is just one aspect of a collaborative effort between police and Foundation 2 to assist those in need of mental health services, according to a news release from the police department. Representatives from both agencies meet on a regular basis to address systemic issues and evaluate the program.

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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