Gov. Holds Discussion on New Mental Health Initiative

By Alan Van Zandt |

Published 07/31 2014 05:51PM

Updated 07/31 2014 09:55PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Governor Jay Nixon stopped in St. Joseph Thursday for a roundtable discussion on a new tool aimed at helping law enforcement deal with mental health issues.

As part of a mental health initiative Nixon announced in his State of the State Address last year, new mental health liaisons are working with law enforcement agencies and courts to help give insight on how to treat people with mental health issues.

"I, in the community, will engage with them and try to figure out what those needs are and what those resources are we can tap into to help meet those needs and give them the support and hopefully give them greater stability," said Mental Health Liaison Jen Gentry.

Gentry is the Mental Health Liaison assigned to work with police in nine counties in northwest Missouri.

Nixon says liaisons are needed because law enforcement aren't equipped to handle mental health issues on their own.

"They are not trained to treat people with mental illness. They are trained to treat people that act out. Whenever you have someone who is not trained to do something and you force them by the exigency of the situation to do that it becomes difficult," Nixon said.

The type of mental illnesses people suffer have changed.

Today, many entering the criminal justice system with mental health issues are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or problems because of drugs.

"There are significant number of people who are suffering from mental health and substance abuse that are in the court system and in the jails," said Gentry. "They don't necessarily need to be there."

"Hopefully we can keep them out of jail and keep them out of the hospital because that's certainly where they don't want to be and we don't want them there either," Nixon said.

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