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Lexington secures a grant to establish mental health response team

Three Lexington police cars blocking an intersection
Lexington Police Department

Lexington has received an $850,000 federal grant from the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services to establish a crisis response team. Governor Andy Beshear announced the grant Thursday afternoon during his Team Kentucky update.

The application for the three-year grant was the collaborative effort of both the Lexington Fire and Police Departments. It will allow the city to hire a full-time mental health professional to respond directly to mental health calls in conjunction with the Lexington Police Department. This grant will also provide overtime funding for police officers who have taken specialized training in responding to mental health emergencies, which currently includes approximately 45 officers.

“This is an enormous step forward in our ability to respond to mental health emergencies,” Mayor Linda Gorton said. “It will make it possible for us to provide the most appropriate response to an individual in crisis and connect them to the best resource.”

Fire Capt. Seth Lockard, who oversees the Community Paramedicine Program, helped write the three-year grant. Lockard said after studying when the city receives most mental health calls, the plan is for the Crisis Response Team to work on weekdays. The city receives approximately 3,000 mental health calls a year, with fewer calls coming in at night or on weekends.

The Crisis Response Team may be able to reduce the number of police officers and firefighters who now routinely respond to mental health calls and provide these citizens with more specialized mental health resources. “With a mental health professional involved, we may be able to provide a more focused approach for the person in crisis,” Lockard said. “Ultimately it is all about the citizen in need, and what is best for them.”

The Crisis Response Team falls in line with a recommendation from the 2020 Mayor’s Commission for Racial Justice & Equality, which included a goal to “direct calls pertaining to individuals with Mental Health, Addiction, and Homelessness issues to appropriate services and to avoid incarceration and hospitalization.”

Karyn Czar joined the WUKY News team July 1, 2013, but she's no stranger to radio.