On January 11, 2021, the Missoula Police Department, in collaboration with the Downtown Missoula Partnership, Missoula Fire Department, and UM School of Social Work, will continue to take steps forward to engage with people in crises in the downtown area.

Doug Cook, a UM Student pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work, will spend ten hours per week with two MPD Downtown Business Improvement District Officers as they patrol the downtown area. Officer Randy Krastel explains the reasoning behind this effort.

“Our main goal is to connect those that are suffering from either mental illness or homelessness, or a combination of both, with the resources that we have in town to help them with any type of need they might require,” Krastel said. “We want to try to get them off the street and to help them with the metal illness issue they are suffering from.”

Officer Krastel went on to explains what Cook’s day to day might entail.

“After our initial contact, if I believe that the scene is safe, he will come in, make contact with these people, and build a rapport with them,” Krastel said. “After that, he will assess the situation and try to figure out what type of resources we can connect that person to in order to help them in the long run. Short term is easy, but long term is the best case scenario and that is where Doug comes into play.”

According to Krastel, one of their main goals is to reconnect these individuals with their families.

“If that is not one of the issues, we will try connecting them with resources like Western Montana Mental Health or any type of case management that we do have here in town,” Krastel said. “We will not only lead them there, but we will actually take them there so we can do what we call a warm handoff to a specialist. From there, we hope that the specialist can help them along the way and get them the help that they require.”

Krastel is hopeful that this program will extend beyond this current semester.

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