APPLETON — The Appleton Police Department has launched its Community Crisis Response Team and added a clinical therapist to assist officers when responding to calls where people are experiencing a mental-health crisis.

The team will help community members access the appropriate level of care by providing on-site clinical evaluations and risk assessments for those experiencing a mental health crisis.

The position has been filled by Sarah Peterson, MSW, LCSW, who has worked for the past three years at Outagamie County Crisis as a Clinical Therapist, according to a news release from Outagamie County.

The Community Crisis Response Team is supported by the NEW Mental Health Connection, as well as the financial support of the City, County, and local funders- United Way Fox Cities and the Bright Ideas Fund at the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.

The Clinical Therapist position is the first of its kind at the department and is improving the way providers can deliver critical services to a person in crisis.

“The challenge and complexity of mental health issues in our community is growing and is at a critical stage,” said Appleton Police Chief Todd Thomas. “The collaboration and partnership of all the service providers, with substantial input from those with lived experiences, will make a monumental improvement in how we provide safe services to people in crisis.”

The partnership between mental health services and law enforcement, guided in part by a Citizen Advisory Committee made up of diverse members of the community, will help to address the mental health and AODA (Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse) needs of the community more effectively, efficiently, and proactively.

“I’m proud of our collaboration with the Appleton Police Department,” Tom Nelson, Outagamie County Executive said. “Our partnership is changing the way forward by adding a layer of confidence in our officers who serve the community by having a mental health professional embedded in the department.”

In addition to the anticipated improved short-term outcomes, such as a reduced number of emergency contacts or crisis calls for service involving law enforcement, this pilot program will work to identify long-term strategies to restructure how our community responds to those in need of services.

“It is clear that our first responders need additional resources to appropriately meet the needs of the community,” said Mayor Jake Woodford. “We are grateful to our partners at Outagamie County for supporting this vital work in the City of Appleton.”

“The vision for this innovative collaboration between the City of Appleton and Outagamie County is to have the RIGHT professional in the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time, which will improve the quality of life for all community members,” said Sarah Bassing Sutton, from the N.E.W. Mental Health Connection, about this collaborative work.

Outagamie County Manager of Mental Health and AODA Services, Dr. Brian Bezier, summarized the effort, “Piloting a second shift Outagamie County Clinical Therapist embedded in the Appleton Police Department will not only improve and expedite mental health and AODA crisis services to our community, it will also improve on utilization of critical resources. By working in tandem, the Officer and clinician will more quickly identify the mental health and AODA needs of an individual in crisis, connect them to the right level of care and overall provide the individual with a level of support and service to help meet their crisis needs.”



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Paid Partnership

By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak, born and raised in Kaukauna, is cofounder of Kaukauna Community News.