The Coon Rapids and Blaine police departments have a new shared employee.
Allison Miller, the departments’ embedded mental health professional, came on board in the beginning of March to help reduce repeat calls for service related to mental health.
After police respond to calls, Miller follows up on those calls in person or over the phone to help people get the help they may need.
“A lot of the time, law enforcement is called when they don’t know who else to call,” Miller said.
Miller has a history of working in mental health services at the Anoka County jail.
“My life experience has led me to this role,” she said.
With her role being new to Blaine and Coon Rapids, Miller said she’s spent time figuring out her goals for the cities.
“It’s about, ‘What will I be doing, and how do I get there?’” she said.
Coon Rapids Police Captain Bill Steiner said the department teamed up with Blaine to hire Miller to increase the number of people who can get the help they need.
In 2020 there were more than 1,600 calls for welfare checks and mental-health related problems in Coon Rapids.
“Allison can develop relationships and foster them by following up, so they can follow through,” Steiner said.
He said this project has been in the works for about three years and is still a work in progress.
“We’re excited for the opportunity to put something like this in place,” Steiner said.
Miller aims to serve the community by following up and continuing a relationship with the people she contacts. Some of the individuals she’ll be following up with already have good relationships with police officers, Miller said. So officers have been “handing off” the relationships to Miller.
She’s been visiting people at their residences alongside officers to help form new relationships with community members, she said.
“I don’t want to do a lot of cold calling, but that might be necessary if there’s not a good relationship with the Police Department,” Miller said.
She’s looking to approach the situations as “gently and sensitively” as possible, to avoid hang ups and ignored calls.
“I’m hoping to have a breakthrough, not burn bridges,” she said.
Because she isn’t a police officer, routine visits from Miller can avoid the stigma that may be associated with a law enforcement officer showing up at someone’s door regularly.
Some people will enjoy having someone to check up on them and make sure they’re going to therapy and working on themselves, Miller said. That way, there’s somebody holding them accountable.
Miller isn’t just calling and listing off mental health resources, she said. Miller works to establish a relationship and interest from the resident, and then works toward giving them resources. She’ll then follow up to see if that’s working for them.
She starts by figuring out what is lacking and what is strong in the resident’s life. This helps her get to know their experience and problems surrounding mental health before making recommendations.
“There’s so many things that go into functioning and well-being,” Miller said.