Work underway to establish Police Department’s behavioral health unit

Overland Park Police Department’s behavioral health unit is already beginning its important work.

The Overland Park Crisis Action Team, or OPCAT, will begin full operations in 2022, with 12 crisis intervention-trained police officers and three Johnson County Mental Health co-responders ready to serve the public.

The Overland Park Police Department receives, on average, seven mental health-related calls for service per day. The team will increase trauma-informed response to those calls.

All members of the crisis action team will be trained to respond to all types of crisis calls for service. 

The unit will also have officers trained to assist with common types and causes of mental health issues, including:

  • Elderly specialists
  • Youth specialists
  • Homeless specialist
  • Veteran specialist
  • LGBTQ specialists
  • Traumatic brain injury specialists
  • Intellectual development disability specialists
  • Substance abuse specialists

“I’m excited about what we’re bringing to the table. It covers a broad range of the community,” said Chief Frank Donchez. “It’s very exciting to have officers who have interest and training in these specialty assignments and can serve our community with that knowledge.”

OPCAT specialists will respond along with co-responders. Co-responders are Johnson County Mental Health clinicians who respond with law enforcement officers when behavioral health is identified as a possible contributing factor at the scene.

Low key uniforms

Crisis Action Team members are part of the Police Department, but will wear a scaled down version of a typical police uniform.

OPCAT uniforms include polos and khaki-type brown pants rather than the typical police uniform with tactical gear.

Officers from the team will drive plain SUVs rather than marked, tactical police cars.

OPCAT members will be able to respond to other calls if needed, and can easily transition to the more identifiable, typical police uniform.

Another new team member

The team is also looking forward to an additional teammate: a therapy dog named Haven.

The team may bring along the Labrador Retriever-mix, rescued from a shelter, on calls for service where an animal can help an officer form a bond with someone in crisis. 

Therapy dogs can be helpful in assisting children through difficult situations and can help the public form bonds with the department at community events.

In addition, Haven will be available to help police officers feeling stress or anxiety of their jobs. 

Funded by 2022 budget, grant

Overland Park has been growing its crisis response team for some time.

The City’s first co-responder became part of the department in 2014. In 2021, Overland Park added two crisis intervention team specialists and co-responders to an informal team of professionals handling mental health calls for service.

In May, the Mental Health Task Force presented its recommendations to the City Council – which included establishing a special unit within the Police Department to provide continuous coverage and 24/7 response for mental health calls.

A federal grant also funds additional crisis intervention training for the department.

Work is already underway to complete this goal after City Council approved the 2022 budget, and the team will officially begin its work by the end of the year.


John Lacy Public Information Officer Police Department 913-327-6937