New strategy will help address community mental health problems

Solution pairs police with provider

An innovative solution to provide help for those situations in which mental health problems intersect with the criminal justice system is getting started in Fort Dodge. We think it has a lot of potential to improve individual lives and, by extension, our whole community.

This new program puts a mental health professional in the Webster County Law Enforcement Center, where they will stay in contact with police officers and the citizens those officers encounter who have mental health problems.

That individual is Fort Dodge native Brittany Baker. She is a 2005 graduate of St. Edmond High School who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake. She works for Central Iowa Community Services, which is a regional mental health services provider.

From her office in the Law Enforcement Center, Baker will be reaching out to people the officers report as potentially having a mental health problem. She has described herself as a “safe zone” enabling people to freely express themselves to her.

Much of her work will be helping the people referred to her by officers get in touch with health care providers, apply for benefits, obtain a license or ID card, seek housing and apply for jobs. She will also go to meet with people in the throes of some kind of mental health crisis.

Baker will also be a source of advice for officers on working with people who have mental illnesses.

As she takes on more and more of the work related to people with mental illnesses, the officers will have more time for patrolling, investigating and taking criminals off the streets.

A lot of work by a lot of people created this system and we want to thank them. Some of the key individuals are former Police Chief Roger Porter, current Police Chief Dennis Quinn and state Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge.

We’re also grateful to have Baker enthusiastically taking on this new role.

The longterm benefits of this arrangement will include more support for people with mental illness, and more time for police officers to spend on preventing crime and catching crooks. It is truly a worthwhile effort.


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