Lack of resources cited in mental health cases

A mental health team like ones established in Oregon would be a luxury for law enforcement agencies in Kewaunee County. Instead of calling the police for mental health-related 911 calls, a special team of professionals in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon is called in to help de-escalate the situation when responding to a crisis. In Kewaunee County, sheriff’s deputies call for help from the human services and crisis services departments to determine if detention is the best option or if other strategies would work better. If detention is the choice, then deputies must transport the person to Green Bay or even Fond du Lac to get the treatment they need. Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski says it can be a strain on their resources.

Joski recently attended the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Conference on Emergency Detentions and says mental health situations are certainly a part of the equation as the county plans a new or renovated public safety building.


Other parts of this ongoing series on mental health:

Tammy Sternard



Recently I attended the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Conference on Emergency Detentions. This conference was to serve a means by which to discuss the various challenges we face when responding to an individual who is in a mental health crisis. The way the statute reads, we as law enforcement officers have the authority to place into secure detention those individuals who have a substantial probability of physical harm to themselves or others as evident by recent acts or omissions, attempts or threats. The statute covering such processes is Chapter 51.15 and Chapter 51.20.

        What this looks like on any given incident is that law enforcement is notified either by the individual or someone who has witnessed the behavior. These calls may originate as threats of suicide or erratic behavior which again poses a risk to the individual or those around them. Upon arrival and determination of factors, our first call is to Human Services as they have the expertise to make a determination regarding mental health and to arrange for appropriate housing if an Emergency Detention is warranted. We then transport the individual to a medical care facility for medical clearance. This is a requirement before any individual can be admitted to a care facility and this process also serves as a interaction opportunity for either a Human Services Counselor or a staff member of Crisis Services to determine if in fact secure detention is the best option or if the person would be better served by the implementation of a safety plan or other diversion tools.

       Once the individual is cleared from the medical facility, we as law enforcement then transport them to the final destination which can be as close as the east side of Green Bay or as far away as FonDuLac. We can have a process that lasts only a few hours to one that ties up our resources for multiple shifts. It is in these processes that we are trying to find solutions for the sake of both our financial sustainability as well as the best possible care for the individual involved. It is truly unfortunate that our response to a person in a mental health crisis is being handcuffed and subjected to a ride in the back of squad car, but for the sake of the officer’s safety and that of the individual, that is our protocol.

       While attending the conference it was encouraging to be part of conversations on what is being done in other areas of the state, and ways we can improve communications. It was also eye opening to hear of the challenges other communities face that we have already conquered. A good example of this is our ability to effectively communicate and problem solve either pro-actively or in some cases after a call has completed and there were complications in the process. Kewaunee County also does an amazing job of sharing knowledge, and data as well as resources. One good example that we were able to provide was the way in which we share information regarding crisis plans from Human Services or Incident summaries from Law Enforcement. Our ability to better understand each other’s roles and responsibilities goes a great distance to helping us overcome some of the challenges in these dynamic calls.

       From the many conversations that were held, there was an agreement that one of the primary goals in improving the overall system is to address statutory language as it relates to the Emergency Detention process. We have dedicated legislators that are willing to listen and play a role in a comprehensive review of this statute and how we can make it more affective for all of those who play a role in keeping our communities safe.

       Another important piece of this conversation needs to be how we improve our resiliency and how we support each other in times of distress. That is however a subject for another article!


As we recognized Thanksgiving this Thursday, it is appropriate to take stock in all that we should be grateful for. It could be the amazing and supportive people we are surrounded by every day or the positive events we experience whether as a result of our own efforts or maybe for no explainable reason at all. Even if you find yourself in challenging circumstances or surrounded by people who are less than supportive, there is still cause for gratitude. You may just have to dig a little deeper or search a bit harder, but it is there.

             If you are challenged by a work environment that you feel takes you for granted, take the time to share with those around you how grateful you are to have them in your life, even if for no other reason than they motivate you to pursue other exciting career opportunities. If you have had a rough financial year, be grateful that you have weathered the storm this far and use that challenge to look at things differently and possibly re-align some priorities. Maybe you have even lost a loved one recently and question what there is to be grateful for. Be grateful that they were in your life and cherish the memories you made together. Also, take this experience of loss to be even more grateful for those still here and never take a moment for granted.

             To fully realize the potential that gratitude has in improving our mental well being there are two components which are essential. The first is the ability to see the good through the negative, or for that matter to see the good in the good. We have to literally train ourselves to be mindful of the miracles that surround us each and every day. The second is to share that sense of gratitude with those around us. If you are grateful for that amazing spouse, friend or family member, make sure to tell them. They may be struggling with a sense of being taken for granted and a simple gesture of appreciation could change their whole perspective. Maybe you are surrounded by people who are always looking for the bad in any given event. Break away from that mindset and be the person who can always find the good in the moment. Just as negativity can be contagious, so too can gratitude catch on and over time change your immediate surroundings.

               So this Thanksgiving holiday, during all of your gatherings and visits, make sure you took the time to share what and who you are grateful for in your life, and hold onto that gratitude for the other 364 days of year.



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