CommUnity’s mental health liaison discusses first three months working alongside Iowa City police

Joachim “Joah” Seelos, Law Enforcement Liaison with CommUnity Crisis Services. (community crisis services)

A participant in a 2019 suicide prevention training course looks at a card for CommUnity Crisis Services Mobile Crisis Services in Iowa City. (C. Slusiaric/Gazette)

Iowa City – Joachim Silos is passionate about helping and meeting people wherever they are.

Selous, who has a background in criminal justice and social work, is a law enforcement liaison with CommUnity Crisis Services who works with the Iowa City Police Department. He started his post at the end of August.

This position was created as part of Iowa City’s plan to restructure the police department. Cedar Rapids and Marion Police have similar communication programs.

Selous spoke with the Gazette about the first three months in his new role, educating residents about mental health and empathy resources.

“It was a great journey and training with the mobile crisis because I was able to really understand our mission,” Silos said. “We listen, we call, we show our sympathy, we bring everything we can to the table, which really helps the client and even their family.”

Q: Can you start by sharing more about yourself and your career before joining CommUnity?

a: “I’m originally from Lafayette, Louisiana. I come from a very Creole background. My mom is Caucasian, and my dad is African American, so I grew up in a very multicultural family. I was basically in a Catholic seminary and a Benedictine monastery in my twenties. When I left, it’s over I ended up working at an at-risk school, which I was really introduced to about social work and trauma and all the things that are considered in terms of a mental health crisis.I ended up moving to Kansas City where I ended up working with homeless youth, and I went back to school. I am ordered to study criminal justice with a minor in social work.”

Prior to moving to Iowa City, Selous was employed in foster care and adoption at Cornerstones of Care in Kansas City. He said Seelos is also part of the LGBT and deaf community.

“Having all this understanding helps me help others who come from diverse backgrounds,” he said.

Q: What made you interested in the Law Enforcement Liaison position with CommUnity?

a: “I definitely wanted a challenge. Coming into the field of working with children and families, this challenge I wanted to be more into working not only with children and families but with adults and the elderly as well. Anyone in a crisis. I also think I got that criminal justice degree and then too Having that social work experience, I can sort of combine that.”

Another aspect that caught his attention, Silos said, was the philosophy and message of the mobile crisis. Through the Mobile Crisis Outreach Program, mental health counselors are sent to where a mental health crisis is occurring.

Seelos said it’s important to meet people where they are without bias or judgment.

“People are often uncomfortable when it comes to someone going through a mental health crisis, and we have to help them understand that we’ve all been there, so let’s have some compassion,” Silos added.

Q: Can you share more about your position? How was the first three months?

a: “My position is the co-responder model. Often times the police department receives many calls, but my hope is to divert some of those calls to me. I have my work van where I will go and meet the officer at the scene. If it is deemed safe, which it usually is. I can ask the officers (if) they can return to duty and I will continue to work with the individual. There may be times when I actually ride with an officer, and we respond to a call. I also work with my managers and supervisors, and they work closely with me to continue to make sure that our clients receive The help and resources they need.”

Another important part of his job, Silos said, is the ability to follow up with clients or people who have been in contact with an officer. Some examples of calls to service could include an individual with psychosis or someone who is severely depressed and has suicidal thoughts.

Q: What are some of the goals of this position and the partnership with the Iowa City Police Department?

a: “Our main goal is to help divert 911 calls (from prison or hospital) to the mental health coordinator. A lot of times the officers are still going out there. I’ve seen them do an incredible job, but I don’t have a badge or a gun. So what less traumatic Going into that scene and helping the individual would be less traumatic for me. I think that’s our biggest goal and also being able to educate the community that we have a mobile crisis, and we have a mental health liaison.”

Comments: (319) 339-3155; izabela.zaluska@thegazette.com

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