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Mental Health Expert Joins Ames PD to help Growing Problem

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AMES, Iowa -- The newest member of the Ames Police Department doesn't have a law enforcement background but she will help find a solution to the departments growing problem.

As the mental health advocate, Julie Saxon's responsibilities will help control the number of mental - health related calls coming into the department.

"I’m trying to meet the needs of these consumers and just listening to them and trying to figure out exactly what they are needing, what services they are lacking and how to get them connected," said Saxon.

The Ames Police Department says it receives on average 80 - 90 mental - health related calls a month. A spokesperson with the departments say that number continues to grow and will continue to grow, based on the Governor's decision to close two state mental health institutes.

"When the funding declines there are less services for them and they often come into contact with law enforcement," said Commander Jason Tuttle. "That’s concerning to us because most of these people don’t need to go to jail, they need to have the appropriate services and the appropriate follow up by somebody to make sure they are going to their appointments."

Saxton's responsibilities include following up with habitual callers who call and connect them with better resources rather than calling police, something the police department struggled to do before.

"They have great concern for these consumers just as much as I do. but their resources might be more limited because they are familiar with providers."

The mental health advocate position is nothing new to the department. The police department created the role July 2012. Former police detective, Jerry Spencer, held the position since inception until he retired in December 2014. Saxton has worked with those who suffer from mental health for six years.

State mandated training requires all police departments to undergo mental health training.