When agencies come together, communities benefit

In response to a growing need for mental health resources for law enforcement professionals, Heart of Iowa Community Services (HICS) is expanding its innovative Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) co-responder program throughout the Dallas County and Des Moines metro regions.

CIT is the initial step in mental health jail diversion processes. CIT trains first responders how to best identify, de-escalate and navigate a mental health crisis. De-escalation is the practice of using verbal and nonverbal skills to allow all parties (first responders, mental health professionals and those in need) time to slow down, think through their options and make better decisions that put mental health and safety at the forefront of the situation. In successful mental health jail programs, people in need are less likely to be sent to jail because they are evaluated and connected to services that assist them in moving forward with life.

Why CIT Co-Responder Programs Work

Approaching mental health-related calls with a co-responder model hasn’t always been the go-to option. However, just one year into the new program with the Waukee Police Department, West Des Moines Department and Urbandale Department, the results speak for themselves. (Figures are reflective of the time between July 2022 and July 2023.)

  • More than 1,259 calls for service and follow-up have been responded to.
  • Over 241 jail diversions have taken place.
  • More than 224 diversions from local emergency departments have occurred.
  • 380 referrals have been made to local community resources.

Area CIT Co-Responder Agencies

In an effort to grow the co-responder program within the HICS service area, HICS funds the 40-hour law enforcement officer/first responder training course specializing in crisis intervention and de-escalation for all officers in the Heart of Iowa Region. Participating agencies include Waukee, Clive, Urbandale, West Des Moines, Dallas County, Adel, Guthrie County, Woodward and Perry for a total of 260 law enforcement personnel trained as of February 2023.

With trainings being added throughout the year, officers and first responders have every opportunity to continue their education through the CIT courses. Learn more about the variety of training programs, provided by SolutionPoint+.

We are proud to have active CIT co-responder models working within large suburban law enforcement agencies in the Heart of Iowa Region. 

Waukee Police Department
Started: July 2022
Co-responder team: Officer Chris Kickbush and Melinda Dennis

Clive Police Department
Started: January 2023
Co-responder team: Officer Kelly Recchia and T.J. Wood

Urbandale Police Department
Started: February 2023
Co-responder team: Officer Jessica Winter and Margaret Lano

West Des Moines Police Department
Started: April 2024
Co-responder team: Officer Ken Bensley and T.J. Wood

The early success of the CIT co-responder program indicates we are on the right track to providing better mental health outcomes for those in need. If you’d like to learn more, contact us at HICSIowa.org or call 515.993.5869.