ST. CLOUD -- St. Cloud's Co-Responder team has been working together for a little over a year now. The program pairs a mental health professional with a uniformed police officer to respond to 911 calls for help.

While the official program launched in March of 2020 it has been a few years in the making.

Kenzie Janson-Wolle is a social worker and full-time employee of the Central Minnesota Mental Health Center. She says it is her job to assess the mental health aspect of the crisis they are responding to.

Doing suicide assessments, safety assessments, and resource connection.  Anything that an individual might need at that moment.  That's my role.  I don't have any background in policing, I'm not a police officer, I'm a mental health professional.

St. Cloud Police Officer Kelly Holden has been on the job for 16 years now and she says she knew right away that she wanted to be a part of this new partnership.

This felt right, it felt really comfortable for me.  I'm also a crisis negotiator on our SWAT team, I've always done anything like this that comes up.

When they arrive on the scene officer Holden first assesses the safety of everyone involved, then Janson-Wolle starts doing her job.

And then once that's been assessed, and it is an ongoing assessment, but once that initial assessment is done then it is my duty to step in and do some of the assessment pieces.  We spend a lot of time figuring out what's going on.  Our calls take a lot longer than the typical response time.

Janson-Wolle says she then looks at action steps like taking them to the hospital or connecting them to a crisis team, or someone else at CentraCare.

And that's really the whole intention of the program is to make sure that the person who is in crisis is getting the most appropriate response and not getting caught in the revolving door of just being brought to the hospital and then discharged with no follow-up or no services.

Holden says they've been diligent with collecting data since the partnership began to hopefully drive the program forward and get more mental health professionals paired with other officers in the St. Cloud police department.

Jansen-Wolle has an office in the St. Cloud Police Department. The pair work together Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

Holden says she is taking the knowledge that she is learning and sharing it with her fellow officers.

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