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Des Moines Police Department and Broadlawns launch new services to address mental health calls

Natalie Krebs
DawnMarie Hooker is the nurse manager of crisis services at Broadlawns Medical Center. She's in charge of new initiatives expanding mental health support for the Des Moines Police Department.

Starting this week, Broadlawns Medical Center will be adding to ways it assists the Des Moines Police Department with mental health services.

Broadlawns has partnered with the DMPD for the past five years to provide officers support with trained mental health clinicians on calls.

But on July 5, the medical center will begin placing a mental health clinician in DMPD’s dispatch center to help screen for and support callers who need mental health aid.

"It's perfect for a health care clinician to be able to do this," said DawnMarie Hooker, the nurse manager of Crisis Services at Broadlawns. "It's what we go to school for. It's what we've trained for, and then we can just be that resource for the officers."

The dispatcher can provide phone counseling and help police determine what kind of support that person needs, whether it's a uniformed officer or a team of clinicians, or both, she said.

Additionally, Broadlawns will begin deploying Crisis Advocacy Response Effort, or CARE, teams made up of two clinicians instead of uniformed police officers to calls deemed low-risk.

"They will respond to more low-level calls [such as] suicidality. Maybe someone that's not actively suicidal, but maybe has been in the last 24 hours," Hooker said.

The dispatcher will be a member of the crisis intervention team and will work Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and the CARE team will work 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Hooker said this is due to staffing vacancies on the crisis team and would like to eventually expand the hours of the new services.

"The care team, I would like to see 24/7," she said. "But right now, let's start small. Let's see what happens, and where the demand and the need is, and then we'll adapt and adjust.”

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter