Oct. 18, 2018 – West Bend, WI – West Bend Police Chief Ken Meuler penned a note to go along with his monthly crime report regarding the growing need for a mental health facility in Washington County. His article is posted below.
October 10 was World Mental Health Day. The day is designated to bring awareness and advocacy for mental health. During the week of October 15 through 20 the West Bend Police Department will be hosting 40 hours of Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) classes.
Sixteen members of the West Bend Police Department and four members of neighboring law enforcement are attending the classes. The classes are designed to assist law enforcement when dealing with persons in a mental health crisis.
This is the second of four classes that West Bend will host over a two-year period of time. Our goal is to have all West Bend PD employees complete the 40-hour class and have representatives attend from all other law enforcement agencies in Washington County.
While the CIT classes are a good step in improving services to those individuals and their families, it does not address the biggest problem we have in dealing with persons in crisis. That problem is that we do not have an impatient facility in Washington County and we have to transport persons in crisis to various facilities in neighboring counties for a safe place for an emergency detention. During September the West Bend PD investigated 39 reports of persons in a Mental Health Crisis. While all of these calls take up a significant amount of resources, the below are calls are examples of when officers spent extremely long periods of time guarding persons while at the hospital being treated, or transporting to mental health facilities outside the County.
On September 4 a 32-year-old male and his 27-year-old soon to be ex-wife got into an argument regarding the man his wife is dating while the divorce is pending. The husband stabbed the boyfriend in the chest with a Chef’s knife. After stabbing the man, the husband attempted to kill himself by injecting himself with a significant amount of insulin before fleeing the apartment. Officers located the man, took him into custody and transported him to St. Joe’s where he was treated. He was then transferred to a mental health facility. Officers spent a total of 83.5 hours investigating, guarding and transporting this individual.
On September 7 a 79-year-old male was highly intoxicated when he assaulted his adult son who was attempting to care for him. Officers took the 79-year-old into custody and he threatened to kill himself. The man was placed in emergency detention. Officers spent a total of 17.0 hours before ACS could find a facility for this man.
On September 9 a 29-year-old female made a video and sent it to her ex-husband. On the video she cut her thighs and made statements that she overdosed on pills. She was taken to St. Joes and once medically cleared taken to a behavioral health unit. Officers spent 16.5 hours at the hospital and transporting this woman to a mental health facility.
On September 10 a 17-year-old male was upset about pending legal troubles and made comments at school that he was going to kill himself. Officers took him into protective custody. Officers transported him to St. Joes for medical clearance, and then transferred to a behavior health unit. Officers spent 16.0 hours at the hospital and transporting this young man to a mental health facility.
On September 21 a 50-year-old male made suicidal statements while being treated for a medical condition then left the facility. Officers located the man and took him into protective custody. He was taken to St. Joes for medical clearance then transferred to a behavior health unit. Officers spent 14.75 hours at the hospital and transporting this man to a mental health facility.
I highlight the time spend on these crisis calls as there are two issues that have been a concern for law enforcement for years and are getting worse. One is the safety of the officers, hospital staff, and the individuals in crisis while they are waiting for treatment and to be transported to a mental health facility.
The second issue is the time and resources we are spending on these investigations. These issues starting getting worse when the County closed the Behavioral Health Unit at St. Joseph’s Hospital several years ago.
Despite promises from the County to address these concerns, the issue has become worse and more dangerous to all involved.
All law enforcement agencies are in agreement we need a treatment facility in Washington County and we need to expedite the process to get these individuals in a safe and secure facility. I encourage all to send that same message to your County supervisors.
Stay safe and I hope to see you in community
Kenneth J. Meuler, Chief of Police