During the Sept. 1 city council work session, McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley outlined his vision for a proposed mental health coordinator position.
City Manager Paul Grimes had previously discussed the position at the Aug.14 budget work session. The position, which would cost about $104,000, would be a civilian position and would work with the police department’s community services unit, particularly collaborating with the department’s homeless and mental health liaisons, Grimes said.
On Sept. 1, Conley said the position would include providing follow-up services to mental health consumers and working with the department to develop training.
“This position of mental health coordinator I think has a multiplying effect throughout the whole department and doesn’t just provide what one person would do as a police officer in one area,” Conley said. “But this civilian position affects all the police officers.”
The goal of adding the position is to reduce repeated calls for service for the same consumer, he said, because mental health consumers are often repeat consumers.
Conley said the department answers around 800 mental health calls per year. A typical patrol response involves taking care of the issue in the moment, Conley said.
“But often, these types of issues are ongoing,” he said. “They’re chronic. They’re things that we have to keep dealing with.”
Reducing the number of repeated calls for service would involve getting consumers connected with service providers and getting long-term help, Conley said. He added that first responders are trained in crisis intervention and mental health and said that the interactions have not had poor outcomes.
“But we want a better long-term outcome so we don’t have to keep going back to the same person over and over again,” he said.
The mental health coordinator would coordinate police interventions with mental health consumers, Conley said. They would also work with service providers, hospital staff and advocacy groups to connect consumers with health and social service providers.
The coordinator would review cases to determine where follow-up is needed and would conduct in-person and phone call follow-ups with consumers that need multiple police interventions, Conley said. The person would also coordinate with family members.
“We envision this position actually going into the field,” Conley said. “Not first response, but going in as a follow-up basis, working with families, working with consumers to make sure that they’re getting the help that they need.”
Conley said he also envisioned the person working as an expert with the department to develop training for officers and dispatchers on mental health and crisis intervention. The person would also look at all mental health apprehensions by police officers to provide a policy and best practices overview.
Qualifications for the position would include a Master’s degree in psychology, counseling or social work with a minimum two years of clinical or field experience, according to Conley’s presentation.
“Right now, we have a police officer who has many other duties in the department trying to do this type of follow-up,” he said. “But he’s wearing way too many hats. He’s not a professional in that area, and we’re trying to provide that service, but we know we could do a lot better job with it.”