‘An explosion of growth’: Wichita PD on mental health calls, taxing on officers


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Mental health calls are on the rise, and the Wichita Police Department says this is taxing on its officers.

Now, they are working on making some changes.

Officers tell me this problem is getting worse.

With an already busy workload, they are hoping to find the best possible solution to keep the community safe.

“It’s just a different set of circumstances that we’re dealing with,” said officer David Howard, of the Wichita Police Department.

“An explosion of growth in the number of mental health related calls we respond to,” said Sgt. David Nienstedt.

And, resources are wearing thin.

“Going to an unknown call for police,” said Howard, during a ride along with KSN’s Tiffany Lane.

Often times, for Howard and the police department, those calls end up needing a different type of assistance.

“We’re asked to do a lot of things that we’re probably not the best trained or suited to be, and mental health is one of these,” he said.

“We’re the only government entity you can call after 5 o’clock a three digit number and have a government response show up,” said Chief Gordon Ramsay. “So, that overreliance on us is taxing us.”

Even with training, Nienstedt says sometimes mental health professionals, like COMCARE, are needed. He says that would free up valuable time, and keep more officers on patrol.

“You end up taking somebody to the hospital, maybe for an exam or for treatment, the time it takes from the start of that call,” said Nienstedt.

The city and county are addressing the issue.

They have teamed up for a new program that will start the end of this month.

A member of law enforcement, a paramedic and COMCARE will go out as a team in an effort to more efficiently respond to mental health calls.

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