Roy Neumann is a mental health responder with Central Minnesota Mental Health Center (CMMHC) who has partnered with several law enforcement agencies in Sherburne County since June of this year. He rides along with officers of the Becker, Big Lake, and Elk River Police Departments, as well as officers of the Sherburne County Sheriff’s office.
Neumann originally went to school to become a teacher, but found it wasn’t the right field for him. He instead became more interested in criminal psychology.
“I was into criminal psychology before it was cool,” Neumann claims.
The co-responder system is fairly new to Minnesota, Neumann says, although similar programs have a longer history in other states. The program has only been present in Minnesota since 2015, and there are still only a handful of mental health co-responders in the state. Only two work in central Minnesota.
On a typical day, Neumann says he rides with an officer doing mundane activities such as traffic stops. Occasionally, Neumann and the officer will respond to a call, not always mental health related. Neumann says when his services are not needed, he still tries to do his best to help the officers or the citizens as best he can.
As an example, he related a recent case they’d responded to. It was a health call, and Neumann made it a point to hold the door for the medical responders and show them the correct apartment. When they were done and about to leave with the patient, he asked her whether he could do anything to help, and she asked him to feed her cat.
But when a mental health call comes in, that’s when Neumann’s services are best put to use.
When responding to a mental health crisis, Neumann says the police will secure the scene to make sure he is safe. Neumann will go in and talk to the individual in crisis, offering on scene counseling. He’ll follow that up by showing them the resources available, and ensuring the individual gets the help they need. Finally, Neumann will follow up with the individual later in the week, usually by stopping by in person, but using email or phone if that isn’t possible.
Those who are experiencing a mental health crisis can call the Sherburne County crisis line at 763-765-4000. Other resources for those in crisis are easily found with an online search.
Of course, if the situation is critical, it is a good idea to call 911.
“It’s a very good idea to get someone else involved,” said Neumann.
If a friend or family member (or even oneself) is showing signs of a desire to harm themselves, it is always ok to call 911.
“A mental health crisis is a medical emergency, and it needs to be treated seriously,” Neumann stated.
Neumann cannot personally respond to every mental health crisis, but he says that the officers servicing Sherburne County are surprisingly more adept than most officers Neuman has worked with at handling mental health cases.
“They’re good listeners,” he said. “They can deescalate the situation.”
Of course, even if Neumann is not on the scene, the officers may ask him to follow up with the individual later in the week.
Neuman and the departments he works with are considering a change to the system in the next few weeks. Neumann will be given his own police vehicle, and will be on call for all jurisdictions during his work day. Neumann hopes this means he will be able to respond to more mental health calls and be better able to help those who need it.
“It’s all about the team,” Neuman said, when reflecting on these past several months.
He states that the officers are well trained for their jobs and that he is just another resource to help get the best care possible to those who are in need of it.
Neumann is originally from Clear Lake. He still lives in the area with his fiance. He has two adult sons, one in law enforcement and one in the performing arts.