Members of the Sioux County Sheriff’s Office described during the monthly Sioux Center Chamber of Commerce luncheon the challenge officers in addressing rising mental health issues in the county.
Sheriff Jamie Van Voorst along with school resource officer Jessica Dorhout and lieutenants Caleb Haverdink and Justin DeBruin attended the July 12 meeting at the Sioux Center Public Library and talked about their agency’s efforts to better address mental health problems in Sioux County.
“Through the years, mental health has been something law enforcement has been called to deal with and fix,” Van Voorst said.
Improved training and a greater effort by local, county and state governments to provide mental health resources will be crucial to better provide for people experiencing mental health problems.
Comparing things from when he began in 1993 to today is difficult because how things were reported back then was different. From his findings though, he figures they used to go on 10-12 mental health related calls in a year back then. Now, it’s in the hundreds.
“It’s getting to be something that’s a part of law enforcement. So, how do we respond to it? How do we do better?” Van Voorst said.
Van Voorst found support from the Sioux County Board of Supervisors to build up its own resources by allowing for the hire of a second school resource officer and to start a mental health unit with a specially trained mental health deputy and therapy dog.
“We saw the need for our school resource officer, Waylon Pollema, who was getting bogged down with requests. That’s a good problem. We had to tell schools we just couldn’t provide what they need ideally. It came down to let’s get another person in the schools,” Van Voorst said.
He asked that people thank county supervisors for their support of mental health resources in the county and to encourage state legislators to make it a higher priority as well.
You can read the full article at the Sioux Center News.