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February 8, 2023

Emergency mental health intake professional joins Watertown Police Department

Watertown police recently welcomed Kelly Lueck to their department's ranks.

Ed Zagorski edz@wdtimes.com

Lueck's position as an emergency mental health intake employee is funded by a collaboration between Jefferson County Human Services and the police department to assist people who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.

A Greater Watertown Community Health Foundation grant also made the position possible. A phone call to the Foundation was not immediately returned Tuesday.

Past police calls involving mental health crises would require officers to respond, make assessments and then call human services to arrange either an immediate response or schedule a plan for services. Having Lueck on staff bypasses this, according to a Watertown Police Department news release.

If needed, she can respond immediately to calls and direct individuals needing assistance to those services, which benefits the officers and citizens, according to the release.

Lueck's background is in nursing where she spent a decade working at the former Bethesda Lutheran Homes facility and five years working at the Wisconsin Department of Corrections where she realized the need for more mental health employees. The experience inspired her to return to college, major in social work and minor in criminal justice. She is also a Watertown High School graduate.

She's also needed in the community, said Watertown Assistant Police Chief Ben Olsen.

"Mental health is a major problem not only in our community, but in society as a whole," Olsen said.

The Watertown Police Department responded to 87 check welfare complaints since Jan. 1. A check welfare complaint could be a call about an open door or a call to check on one's neighbor during the most recent cold spell.

"The more resources we have at our disposal, the greater the chances that some day we will be proactive rather than reactive," Olsen said. "Kelly does a phenomenal job assisting our officers out in the field."

The Watertown Police Department is committed to ongoing mental health training and awareness, Olsen said.

"Every sworn officer is certified in crisis intervention training which is a 40-hour program for law enforcement officers on how to better respond to people experiencing a mental health crisis," he said. "Although our officers possess great training dealing with mental health issues, people may be less inclined to speak with an officer dressed in full uniform. Kelly can help put the person at ease and has even more knowledge to direct the person to where they may be best served."