New service makes mental health a priority in Winneshiek County

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(ABC 6 News) – Mental health or other special needs can play a big part in how first responders respond to a 911 call. A new program in Winneshiek County is taking a new approach to making sure everyone gets the help they need.

Winneshiek County Emergency Management is offering a voluntary service for people, the Mental Health registration form. It gives you an opportunity to provide any helpful information about mental health or other special needs in your household. Essentially, giving first responders a “heads up.”

“It just helps us have some background information that may help responders make things go a little better,” Sheriff Dan Marx with Winneshiek County told ABC 6 News.

“It’s just some background information for us. I’ll also point out it doesn’t require us to respond in any certain way or fashion. It’s just some background information for us. Obviously, we have to first and foremost, take safety into consideration and make sure everyone is safe.”

Sheriff Marx said a good amount of 911 calls have some mental health aspect to them. Though he doesn’t think the process is fair because not all of the calls are crime-related.

“Mental health is a serious issue here in Winneshiek County and elsewhere. We take it very seriously and we’re going to continue to take it very seriously. As practical ways come up where we can as law enforcement assist, we’re going to do that. If there’s an idea that’s brought up to me and it’s practical, we’re going to try and do it.”

The Winneshiek County Sheriff’s Office, the Winneshiek 911 Dispatch Center, and Decorah Police will have access to the registry.

To register, you can click here.