City receives grant to help with mental health calls

From Region 8 News at Six
Published: Oct. 23, 2023 at 5:46 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - A grant is partnering mental health experts with the Jonesboro Police Department.

On Friday, Oct. 23, the city of Jonesboro announced it had received a $550,000 grant from the Department of Justice.

The money will be used to partner mental health professionals from Arisa Health with the Jonesboro Police Department.

“I think it’s going to be a massive culture change,” said Kimberly Boyett, director for Crisis and Forensics Services with Arisa Health.

“There’s a lot of people out there who have a tremendous amount of need, they are not getting connected with where they need to be.”

Boyett said the loss of funding to many mental health programs leaves many people in crisis to call the police.

Boyett said having a mental health expert with police can also help other departments.

“It helps free up other officers so they can respond to other types of calls because some of these are kind of involved. It’s not as easily handled just in a matter of a few minutes,” she said.

A person in crisis could immediately be admitted to a mental health hospital when a counselor is with the police.

Lynn Waterworth, assistant chief with the Jonesboro Police Department explained how the department will benefit from the presence of a counselor.

“We’ll be able to answer more of those calls, and we’ll be able to do proactive things where we can go back and check up with individuals and make sure that they’re getting connected to the resources and the community that they need,” she said.

The department is already training police officers and counselors on how to work as a team, to help someone in a time of crisis.

The full-time counselor is expected to be with the Jonesboro Police Department by January.