(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Community leaders met Monday to talk about what’s driving crime and mental health problems in St. Joseph.
The Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Crime Advisory Committee gathered at City Hall. One of the main topics of conversation was drug use.
Committee Chair, Michael Meierhoffer said right now, the group is working on building a foundation of knowledge on a host of issues.
“Of course reducing crime in the community would be the goal for the committee and certainly the police force and the Sheriff,” Meierhoffer said. “We are so new, we are trying to get our arms around exactly what it is that are the driving factors for crime in the community."
This was the second meeting for the committee. All members agreed that the St. Joseph Police Department has been working hard to reduce crime over the past several years.
The committee also discussed the opioid crisis and mental health issues plaguing the community.
Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Missouri according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2016, 1133 Missourians died by suicide.
In a previous meeting, Police Chief Chris Connally said out of more than 9000 emergency calls, 900 are about suicide. The committee asked Sgt. James Langston about the statistic and his experience with crisis intervention training.
Langston said from January to May of 2018, his team put in 700 hours to help people in crisis.
“These are not quick calls where an officer can get there, get the information and within 20 minutes be back out on the street,” he said. “These are at a minimum a couple of hours a piece.”
Langston also said 100 percent of SJPD is trained in Mental Health First Aid. The program is an 8-hour course that teaches people skills on how to respond to someone with mental illness, substance abuse issues, or in crisis.
Langston said SJPD is working to crisis training but it is difficult to work into officers’ busy schedules.
If you or someone you love needs help, call the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255). The hotline will connect you to the nearest certified crisis center.