ST. CLOUD -- A collaboration among law enforcement, health care professionals and human services is working to better serve people who can get caught up in the criminal justice system but may need other help.

The Community Action Team recently won an Innovation Award from the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation to decrease recidivism and better respond to people in crisis.

CentraCare's Katy Kirchner is one of the coordinators of the effort. She says they use 911 call data into the St. Cloud and Waite Park Police Departments to identify those who may be in need of mental health or medical help.  From there, a team of professionals follows up with the person to ensure they have access to counseling, medications, and other services they may be lacking.

According to Kirchner, calls for service to the St. Cloud Police Department are up since launching this program in late 2017, but in-custody holds are down 18-20% since then.

Kirchner says their team consists of multiple agencies including mental health professionals, Stearns County social workers, police officers from St. Cloud and Waite Park, the St. Cloud VA and health care providers.

The goal is to get people in crisis the services they need to stay out of jail, out of the emergency room and out of traumatic situations.

Kirchner says CAT is becoming a model for other communities to better respond to members of the community who may have "fallen through the cracks". A number of agencies have either inquired or come to St. Cloud to learn more about how the efforts are coordinated.

CAT is currently a secondary response team, but Kirchner hopes the next step will be to get some of those health professionals riding along with police officers to address calls as a first responder when someone is in crisis.

Have WJON News Sent to Your Inbox

Subscribe to the WJON Newsletter and have top local news headlines sent to your inbox every day.