Crisis worker responds to mental health calls alongside Waukesha County Sheriff's Office in new pilot program

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WAUKESHA COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A crisis worker will respond to mental health emergency calls in Waukesha County.

The Waukesha County Sheriff's Office said the pilot program is designed to limit law enforcement's role with people having a mental health crisis. Instead, a mental health professional will be able to provide their expertise on scene.

"So when 911 calls come in related to a mental health crisis, that mental health professional will deploy into the community immediately," Waukesha County Human Services Coordinator Jennifer Wrucke said.

The grant-funded position allows for a crisis worker to be on-scene with law enforcement, gathering information in real time rather than playing catch up later.

"That mental health professional will conduct a clinical risk assessment and work with the person in crisis and develop a plan for immediate safety," Wrucke said.

Wrucke said the Waukesha Department of Health and Human Services predicts local law enforcement will respond to more than 700 mental health calls this year.

"Their assessments are done quicker, they're on scene earlier, and as soon as they can determine that the appropriate resources can be provided, we're hopeful that this will relieve law enforcement earlier in many of the calls," Waukesha County Sheriff Eric Severson said.

Once a scene is determined safe, law enforcement is cleared to cover other safety and criminal issues.

"We want to make sure that mental health crisis are dealt with by mental health resources," Severson said. "We don't want law enforcement doing what's outside their scope of expertise."

The pilot program will conclude around summer 2022.

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