MASON CITY, Iowa - The Mason City Police Department was just awarded a $480,000 grant by the Bureau of Justice Assistance through the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program.
The grant will be used to fund crisis intervention training, mental health training for officers, as well as a unique virtual reality training system that will put officers in a situation with a person who shows signs of a mental illness.
Mason City Police have already put many mental health initiatives to work even before getting the grant. Right now, the department has a case worker who officers can reach out to and get help for people in the community who may be dealing with mental illness or substance abuse problems.
Chief Jeff Brinkley says this type of local approach to dealing with mentally ill people in the community is working well. He cited a case of a person who had nearly 200 calls to police over several years. After getting the person some help, those calls were reduced to just 18. One side benefit of the focus on mental health, according to Brinkley, is savings to taxpayers, who won't have to foot the bill each time an ambulance is called or an emergency room visit is needed to deal with a mentally ill person.