SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – The Sioux Falls Police Department is working with behavioral health experts to better respond to mental health calls in the city. It’s a newer program that just finished its second summer.

The Co-Responder Program is a partnership between Sioux Falls Police and Southeastern Behavioral Health that puts officers and trained mental health professionals in a patrol car together.

“Right now, currently, we operate this program over the summer months and we utilize our school resource officers because the school is not in session so we have resources available to run this program,” Operations Lieutenant Jason Leach with Sioux Falls Police said.

Team members respond to active acute calls and calls they’re referred to, but they also take the time to just meet with people on the streets.

“One of my favorite stories was were in the downtown area, Kim and I, and there was an individual, he had a piece of cardboard, I think it said, ‘anything helps,’ or something to that effect. We went down and met with him just to see if there is anything from a police officer standpoint or from a Southeastern standpoint that we could do to help this individual. By the time we were done, there was a line of four to five people behind us and he kept introducing us as, ‘hey, this is the car that helps people,'” School Resource Officer Andrew Parrott with Sioux Falls Police said.

Officers say over the last two summers, the co-responder teams have helped 230 people, over half of which were able to be treated right where they were.

“25 percent were set up with appointments with Southeastern Behavioral Health for follow-ups,” Leach said.

“This partnership is a benefit to the community as a whole. The more that we see early intervention and crisis de-escalation and connect people to care, the more we can hope for expedited recovery,” Kim Hansen with Southeastern Behavioral Health said.

The police department says the program also helps free up other officers to respond to emergency calls during the summer months. They hope to utilize the co-responder teams during long school breaks, as well, like winter break.