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Police: Mental health investigations in Lincoln increasing

The Grand Island Independent - 7/3/2018

LINCOLN - Lincoln police are struggling to respond to more mental health calls as mental health services are at or near capacity, according to police officials.

Lincoln police Chief Jeff Bliemeister told The Lincoln Journal Star that officers responded to more than 3,500 mental health calls last year. He said the department has seen a nearly 10 percent increase through May when compared with the same period last year.

While mental health calls make up about 2.5 percent of calls, they tend to take longer, said Officer Luke Bonkiewicz.

"With mental health calls, there's much more gray area," he said. "There's also the challenge of taking a long-term view of assisting mental health consumers."

Calls often involve creating a rapport with an individual, calling treatment facilities and considering placement options, Bonkiewicz said. Officers want to help everyone, but resources sometimes aren't available, he said.

Bliemeister recently told the City Council at a budget meeting that an officer had to transport a person going through a mental health crisis nearly 100 miles west to the nearest hospital that had an opening. Bryan West's 66-bed mental health unit was full, as were the 16 beds at the Crisis Center.

"While these levels of demand for mental health services are not always overwhelmed, they are increasingly at or near the capacity," he said.

Bonkiewicz said the Lincoln Police Department has spent the past few decades improving their response to mental health calls. Officers are trained how to respond to mental health calls and are encouraged to perform a threat assessment and deescalate a situation, he said. Officers are also encouraged to work with community mental health resources.

 
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