Marion City Council votes to approve new crisis counselor position for police department for intervention on mental health calls


The Marion Police Department will soon have a crisis counselor embedded within the department.

During its Thursday night meeting, the Marion City Council voted unanimously to approve the agreement between the department and Foundation 2 Crisis Services for the law enforcement liaison. Foundation 2 is a nonprofit human services agency that offers mobile crisis services.

The crisis counselor will work with police officers on intervention regarding mental health-related calls to help with de-escalation and to assess where individuals should be referred for treatment and follow up services.

According to a department news release, the anticipated benefits of the new arrangement include a reduction in officer time spent responding to mental health-related calls, diverting individuals with mental health concerns from jail to behavioral health treatment, onsite consultation for officers regarding community interactions related to mental health, a reduction in officer’s use of force by utilizing alternative techniques and an increase in overall awareness of differentiating responses for those with mental health needs.

Discussions on the agreement began back in March between Marion and Foundation 2, but implementation was delayed due to the pandemic and derecho storm.

State and federal grants are being pursued to pay for the annual $65,000 cost of the program according to a news release. For now, it will be funded through the police department’s existing budget.

Members of the Marion Alliance for Racial Equity had also called for a mental-health liaison within the police department when previously presenting to the city council this summer. Members of the Marion Alliance voiced their support of passing the agreement during Thursday’s meeting.

Marion police have responded to over 8,200 calls in the last five years with around five percent of calls being related to mental health issues according to a news release.

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The establishment of this new agreement and position comes after the city recently established a community equity working group that includes city staff, members of the Marion Alliance and other city residents to address issues of equity within the city.

Foundation 2 will begin the process of advertising for the position according to the release. It is anticipated that the hire will start work in the Marion Police Department by the end of 2020.

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