MARION, Iowa (KWWL) — In October 2020, Marion City Council approved an agreement between the Marion Police Department and Foundation 2 Crisis Services to assign a mental health liaison to work directly with officers and the community.
On Jan. 4, Brooke Bige started her role as the department’s law enforcement mental health liaison. Bige completed two interviews and also went on a ride-along before she started the job.
Right out of college, Bige worked at Tanager Place as a service worker. She also worked in corrections for three years. She says those experiences, “[gave] me the ability to go out into the public and use the de-escalation techniques and refer to different services.”
Bige does not wear a police uniform or protective gear while out on calls.
“I’m not an officer, I’m not here to get you in any sort of trouble or file any charges, I am truly here because they have asked me to come and help you,” Bige said.
From the last time the department pulled data, Bige has had 39 face-to-face interactions, 65% of them were successful, resulting with stabilizing the individual or voluntary hospitalization.
Last week, Bige provided basic skills training to officers on handling mental health calls.
“They have been very open to anything and any resource that I can provide them,” she said.
“Mental health doesn’t discriminate.”
One of the six demands the Marion Alliance for Racial Equity put forth last year was to have a “mental health liaison available for Marion Police crisis calls.”
Janessa Carr, a co-founder of the group says this is a step in the right direction.
“The mental health liaison is great for Marion. Period,” Carr said. “Mental health doesn’t discriminate, mental health doesn’t know any color or social class.”
The mental health liaison is funded through the city of Marion, however state and federal grants are being pursued.
Over the past five years, 5% of the calls Marion Police have responded to were related to mental health, according to a press release.
On Saturday, the Marion Alliance for Racial Equity will be co-hosting a “Rally to Unite.”