IOWA CITY, Iowa (KWWL) – During the summer of 2020, Iowa City Police faced loud calls for change from their community.
In December, City Manager Geoff Fruin gave the Preliminary Plan to Restructure the Police Department. The 34 recommendations centered on funding social services and diverting calls away from police.
A big part of this plan was the addition of a mental health liaison to co-respond with officers. That position has now been filled, and the work is about to begin.
Joachim Seelos comes to Iowa City after six years of crisis intervention and child welfare work in Kansas City. He was hired by CommUnity Crisis Services in July and is now training with ICPD.
“I think we’ve all been through some sort of crisis and so it helps me to relate to what other people are going through in their lives,” Seelos said.
Seelos has an office at ICPD headquarters and will respond with police to welfare checks, possible suicides and more. The department hopes to also send him out on calls on his own.
“We’ve been trying to look at different co-responder models for several years now,” Sgt. Andrew McKnight said, the head of planning and research for ICPD. “We have to figure out the best ways to utilize his talents, but he’s certainly an asset for us.”
Some community members say the new position is a step towards better relations with police, but there is still a long way to go.
“Mental health is such a touchy and hard subject right now, especially during the pandemic,” Tony Sivanthapanith said, a former mental health worker and a 15-year resident of Iowa City. “This is a step, but I believe there are many more steps needed.”