“Lost Minds: KC’s Mental Health Crisis” exposes the mental health crisis that grips Kansas City as seen through the eyes of the KCMO police and the Missouri health care professionals, namely community mental health liaisons, who work alongside them. The film premieres Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. on KCPT with additional airings Thursday, Oct. 2 at 9 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 5 at 1 a.m. and 4 p.m.; Monday, Oct. 20, 10:30 p.m. Visit kcpt.org/lostminds to watch video, meet the officers and learn more about the issue.
In my film “Lost Minds: KC’s Mental Health Crisis,” I set out to examine the issue of those with a serious mental illness who are not in treatment. The story is told through the eyes of the KCMO police and the Missouri health care professionals who work alongside them, namely the community mental health liaisons.
When I was a producer with the BBC in the U.K., I had the privilege to tell the story of a platoon of British troops left devastated by the horrific physical and mental wounds they suffered during their tour of duty in Afghanistan in 2009. Whilst working on that film I discovered that PTSD is a hidden enemy that can destroy lives even after troops have left the battlefield.
I arrived in Kansas City late last year as a filmmaker with a strong interest in the mentally ill and a desire to share their plight.
The news stories from the U.S. that often hit the headlines in U.K. concern the mass shootings, and these often involve a person with an untreated mental illness going on a rampage. I wanted to find out what was being done to reduce the risk of such an attack happening in Kansas City, and that took me to the cops.
They told me about the Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT, Program, and the work its now doing with the liaisons to reach people before they hit a mental health crisis. What struck me immediately is the passion the CIT sergeants and officers have for their new role. One of them told me that the CIT program allowed him to return to old-style policing, where he got out of his car and became involved in the community and helped those who needed help.
The CIT program teaches a range of skills, like how to recognize if someone is in a mental health crisis and how to de-escalate the situation. It also connects officers with the services the mentally ill may need to access.
The liaisons help with this latter aspect. And the five liaisons who are based in the Missouri side of the city have been going out on visits, accompanied by CIT officers, to people living in the community who they and the police believe could pose a danger to themselves or others. But the liaisons are struggling to keep up with the volume of reports they’re receiving from law enforcement. They can’t make their visits as frequently as they would like.
The CIT officers are doing all they can to help, but they’re patching up a system that’s broken, and, as one of them poignantly told me: “It’s almost like we’re putting duct tape on an airplane. We know at some point that the wings are going to fall off, but you’re expected to keep on flying and flying and flying. And it’s dangerous.”