Duluth Council Approves Grant to Continue Mental Health Officer Position

Officer helps build relationships and get people help from Mental Health Services.

DULUTH, Minn.- The Duluth City Council approved a $206,793 grant that’ll allow the Duluth Police Department to continue dedicating an officer specifically for mental health calls.

The officer is part of the Department’s Mental Health Unit based out of the DTA substation downtown. He works with people based on referrals from other officers and community members.

Since the grant was first awarded in February 2018, the unit has responded to almost 300 referrals connecting people with mental health services to help avoid future concerns.

“We have two embedded social workers and then the two dedicated mental health officers. And so without one of them it would be difficult to do what we do,” said social worker Patty Whelan, “to try to divert people from hospital or jail, and being able to help people and get them, help them maintain their quality of life.”

According to officers, collaborating with social workers allows them to find people help quicker, while building relationships with people who are vulnerable in the community.

“Sometimes people are afraid of police, they’re afraid of the uniform. We put a lot of effort into breaking down that barrier and developing trust with people,” Sgt. Kelly Greenwalt said.

The Supervisor of the Community Policing Program said it actually emboldens people to seek help themselves.

“We have people that have come to Officer Roberson and Officer Guenther seeking help rather than us going out to find them.”

The new grant money will also support the expansion of the mental health program as the Department sees fit.

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