Police awarded federal grant | Funding to support mental health study

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — The DeKalb Police Department has been the recipient of a federal grant to provide a better response when dealing with people with mental illnesses.

Police officials applied for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Police-Mental Health Collaboration Project Grant in April with the intent of developing a plan to improve mental health responses and services.

The year-long $75,000 grant requires the city to hire a part-time grant coordinator — which is to be paid for by the grant — to design a planning team and prepare a research proposal request to study mental health needs.

“The goal of the project is to identify potential solutions for persons who fall through the cracks of traditional mental health care services and consequently require the repeated response of law enforcement who presently have insufficient options for applying an effective remedy for these individuals,” said Jason Leverton, DeKalb Police Department commander.

The increase of mental health-related issues is likely to have many contributing factors, such as a reduction of mental health hospitals, issues with obtaining health insurance, fewer mental health services available in the area and a growing number of undiagnosed mental illnesses among veterans, Leverton said.

Two-thirds of the grant’s funding is expected to cover the grant coordinator’s pay and the independent research, with the remaining amount going toward training, travel and administrative costs.

Deanna Cada, DeKalb County Community Health Board executive director, said there has been a great deal of support behind the grant, and it is possible to receive more funding through the grant next year.

“This is only the first step, and this isn’t going to solve all the problems, but I firmly believe you have to take that first step,” said Fifth Ward Alderperson Kate Noreiko.