December 22, 2017

Thank you for helping to Celebrate 50 Years of UCS

As 2017 comes to a close, the staff and volunteers of UCS would like to take a moment of reflection and thanks.  This year we celebrated 50 years of serving our community.  Thanks to your support and generosity, we were able to raise more than $50,000 through our 50th Anniversary fundraising efforts.  These funds allow UCS to continue its work in community collaboration, education, and advocacy.  Your support is an investment in our next 50 years.

UCS Kansas Public Policy Forum Summary and Materials

This year's forum looked at issues challenging many residents in Johnson and Wyandotte counties through the health equity lens and how factors such as poverty, safe and affordable housing, access to affordable health insurance, and adverse childhood experiences are all components of the Social Determinants of Health.  Years of public health research indicates that 50% of what creates our health outcomes can be attributed to social and economic factors, and our surrounding environment.  Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible.  It requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.  The ultimate price people will pay where health inequity exists is a diminished life expectancy.
Featured speaker, David Adkins, Executive Director/CEO of the Council of State Governments, also explored the role federal funding plays in state budgets and how cuts at the federal level stresses state budgets and can ultimately lead to diminished services at the local level.  Additionally, payment obligations to our national debt have continue to grow and is estimated at $62,920 per capita or 5.4 times the federal budget.
The forum concluded with a legislative panel discussion with Senator Laura Kelly, Representative Kathy Wolfe Moore, and Representative Linda Gallagher.  The policymakers discussed the upcoming 2018 session, the ongoing work of the Child Welfare System Taskforce, current coverage by the Kansas City Star regarding transparency in Kansas state government, and the privatization of the state mental health hospital.  Click here for a copy of the forum's presentation materials.

Collaborating to Improve Community Response to Mental Health Needs

We want to end our 50 years of UCS Stories celebration by highlighting the story of our 2017 UCS Excellence in Community Service award recipients:

For 50 years, United Community Services of Johnson County (UCS) has spearheaded efforts to make vital human services available to individuals and families in Johnson County, especially those facing challenges. UCS brings together human service providers, policymakers, funders and community leaders to address issues impacting the well-being of residents. These partnerships ensure that the collective human service impact in Johnson County is far greater than the accomplishments individual organizations can achieve working alone.

The Need
Too often, across our country and in Johnson County, men and women with mental illness land in jail or sit in emergency waiting rooms instead of being connected to the services they need.  In 2008, leaders of Johnson County's mental health and criminal justice systems believed that by working collaboratively, strategies could be identified and applied that would reduce the number of persons with mental illness who are involved in the criminal justice system. During that year, 17% of the inmate population (17,637 men and women) in the Johnson County Adult Detention Center was on psychotropic medications during incarceration. One-third of residents in facilities operated by the Johnson County Department of Corrections received on-site psychiatric services. Courts and correctional agencies were the third most frequent source of referral to the Johnson County Mental Health Center.
In the spring of 2009, UCS was asked to facilitate the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Intercept Project - a collaborative planning process with members of organizations who were charged with making recommendations and developing effective strategies.  Recommendations resulting from this collaborative process included a co-responder approach by Johnson County Mental Health Center and law enforcement.

The Result
The Johnson County Mental Health Center Co-Responder Program adds the services ofa qualified mental health professional to a police department's patrol division.
The co-responder's primary responsibility is to respond with a law enforcement officer on calls where mental illness is identified as a potential contributing factor. This partnership enables the mental health professional to conduct an immediate face-to-face assessment of the risk posed by individuals involved in a police encounter. Furthermore, the co-responder can provide effective intervention and link individuals to services right away to prevent the over-utilization of jails and emergency rooms.
Through a 2011 Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the city of Olathe became the first community in Johnson County to embed a Johnson County Mental Health Center co-responder in their police department.  In 2013, an expansion grant award allowed the city of Overland Park to begin the co-responder program in their police department.
The Impact
Today, five qualified mental health professionals are working with law enforcement agencies in fourteen Johnson County communities. Since the program's inception, Olathe now has two co-responders; Overland Park has a co-responder; Lenexa and Shawnee began sharing a co-responder in 2016; and as of 2017, Leawood, Prairie Village, Merriam, Mission, Mission Hills, Mission Woods, Roeland Park, Fairway, Westwood and Westwood Hills share a co-responder who is embedded in the police departments serving these communities.  In 2018, Overland Park plans to add another co-responder, and Lenexa and Shawnee also plan to add a co-responder so each police department will have their own.  This year, Johnson County EMS System has also piloted a Johnson County Mental Health Center co-responder with their Fire/EMS providers.
Since its inception almost 350 community members with mental health needs have been connected to services that allowed them to avoid waiting for help in jail cells or emergency rooms.

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