City partners with Dakota County on pilot program

The Rosemount Police Department will have a little extra help for mental health calls this year.

The city’s police department has entered into a joint powers agreement with the Coordination Community Response pilot program with Dakota County.

The county is providing Rosemount Police with a mental health professional for 20 hours per week.

“It’s a joint response,” Police Chief Mikael Dahlstrom said during a City Council meeting last week. “The mental health (professional), a lot of times they’re not comfortable going to the door by themselves. For the police officer, they want mental health resources with them. By joining those sources together, we think it’s the best plan at the moment.”

According to Dakota County, Coordinated Response focuses on connecting with people within days after the mental health-related crisis has passed. The outreach team provides referrals, assistance with system navigation and care coordination.

“(They’ll) respond with officers to the residence and offer a variety of services to community members, and put together short-term solutions to get them long-term stabilization if they need it,” Dahlstrom said.

The mental health professional will also help educate law enforcement members on mental health issues and emergency services offered by the county.

The agreement goes through Dec. 31, but Dahlstrom said the long-term goal is to remove the “pilot” from the program and make it permanent.

“This is the baseline to gather statistics and make sure it’s going well,” Dahlstrom said. “In the first month, I can tell you, we used our program. We had over 30 referrals in the first month. We’re averaging five referrals a week.”

Rosemount applied for the pilot program with Apple Valley.

They’ll join Hastings, West St. Paul and South St. Paul who are also part of the pilot program, Dahlstrom said.

“Nationwide, we saw calls with mental health crisis and different concerns with behavioral health escalate over the years,” Dahlstrom said.

From 2016 to 2019, the Rosemount Police Department saw a 60 percent increase in welfare check calls.

In 2019, according to the police department, officers responded to more than 400 mental-health related calls.

They’re tough calls to take.

They require specialized crisis intervention and de-escalation training.

Police officers said they were often visiting the same individuals.

Dahlstrom said officers would respond to residents “and we’d do well with the individuals in crisis, but were having difficultly coordinating long-term solutions and stabilization for these individuals.”

He said they visited one resident more than 100 times in a year.

It’s also about building relationships and having staff residents can trust.

He recalled police responded to a resident in crisis that had a positive outcome.

“(The person) came back a week later to ask to talk to the sergeant who was there,” Dahlstrom said. “I remember our mental health professional telling us ‘this is exactly what we need.’ It’s building relationships. It’s determining what is the connection that’s there to give them the long-term help. Sometimes it’s the mental health professional. Sometimes it’s law enforcement.”

Mayor Bill Droste said the topic came up during a meeting with a regional council of mayors.

He said addressing mental health is bigger than just law enforcement.

“It’s having clinics and hospital beds, too,” Droste said.

To learn more about the program, visit a link from tinyurl.com/2snv78vx.

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