Lyon Co. law enforcement, Western Mental Health in talks for partnership

MARSHALL — Over the past year, area law enforcement officers have responded to an increased number of calls of people experiencing a mental health crisis, Lyon County Sheriff Eric Wallen said. To help respond in those situations, local law enforcement agencies including the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office are seeking to partner with mental health service providers, he said.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Lyon County Board, Wallen said the Sheriff’s Office is taking part in talks with Western Mental Health Center about a potential partnership program. The “co-responder” program would provide a trained staff member from Western Mental Health to assist officers when they respond to mental health calls.

“They would be a full-time person, with an office out of the (Lyon County) Government Center,” Wallen said of the co-responder position. He said county law enforcement officers receive training on autism and mental illness, and skills like de-escalating conflicts, but it would still help to have someone with a background in mental health present when officers respond to crisis calls.

The Sheriff’s Office has received a lot more mental health-related calls since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wallen said.

Besides assisting with crisis calls, the co-responder could also help make sure inmates at the Lyon County jail get continuity of care for mental health, Wallen said. While people in the jail can receive treatment for a mental health crisis, they might not have that same access to care once they are released. Wallen said the co-responder could work with inmates to help them establish plans for continuing mental health care outside of jail.

The full details of a potential responder partnership haven’t been finalized yet. Wallen told county commissioners he would be meeting with Western Mental Health later this month.


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