ST PAUL, Minn. — Sergeant Jamie Sipes has spent the last two decades working for the St. Paul Police Department to expand the department's response to crisis related calls for service.
"In 2016, we started researching progressive programs," says Sipes, the program's coordinator.
Two years later, the St. Paul Police Department started a mental health unit, later referred to as the "Community Outreach and Stabilization Unit" or C.O.A.S.T.
"We partner with community-based resources to respond to crisis-related calls together," says Sipes.
Most recently, the department introduced a refurbished bus with trained outreach team members to provide chemical dependency outreach and mental health assessments to those in need.
"Out of the cold, out of the heat, where people could be comfortable assessing some difficult questions," says Sipes.
Officer Justin Tiffany, who spearheaded the department's Recovery Access Program, says with an increase in mental health related police calls, following up with people who experienced overdoses and those in need of service referrals and outreach, is crucial..
"Then connecting them with the available services and licensed alcohol and drug counselors," says Tiffany.
While the program is receiving outside support.
"Very fortunate to be recognized by MDH as a program they wanted to be associated with, they offered us money," says Tiffany.
They're hoping to continue expanding the program to bring more resources to the community.
To learn more about the program, visit the website here.