WATERTOWN, SD (KELO) — Alexis Buysse will soon be celebrating six years with the Watertown Police Department.
Over the past year, his work with the force has focused on mental health in the community.
“I like to try to understand people as much as possible, to understand their stories and to try to work with them as much as possible,” said mental health manager Alexis Buysse.
Last January, Buysse became the department’s first mental health officer.
“We have had more and more mental health crises in our region and in our country, and as a police service, we have just identified the need to be better prepared to respond to people in mental health crisis. “, said Assistant chef Ryan Remmers.
While Remmers says most officers in the force have crisis intervention training, Buysse has more training in dealing with mental health issues.
“People are now getting much better service than they were from a normal, regular police officer who is not as well equipped,” Remmers said.
Not only does Buysse respond to crisis calls when she is at the appointment, but she also follows up with people who might be having difficulty.
“A big thing with a lot of people I work with every week is just this recording. Sometimes they don’t have anyone close to them or someone who comes up to them and says, ‘Hey, how are you?’ and just listen to what they have to say,” Buysse said.
But Buysse is not a therapist, and she is not there to diagnose anyone.
That’s why she connects people with resources that can help them, including Human Service Agency.
Kari Johnston is the executive director.
“Now, with Lex in the program and some crisis intervention officers being trained, they know how to interview them and what questions to ask and they are better able to determine what is urgent and needs service right now,” Johnston said.
Although Buysse has always been passionate about mental health, her new role has taught her a lot.
“I thought I knew a little about mental health, but I feel like when I started I knew a very small fraction of mental health and it really opened my eyes to understand what some of the struggles of people with mental illnesses or mental disorders. health goes through every day. It’s amazing how these people can get up every day and overcome their mental illness and be productive members of society. I think “What if it was me? How would I like to be treated?,” Buysse said.
And she keeps that in mind every day she’s at work.
“Trying to be there to care and show that as a law enforcement agency we care about the community,” Buysse said.
The Mental Health Officer position was made possible through a three-year federal grant.
The city plans to fund the position indefinitely thereafter.