2020 in Review: Compassionate support & resources

2020 in Review: Offering compassionate support and resources
Posted on 12/30/2020

2020 was an exceptionally difficult year for many in our community. Staff found ways to support those who struggled with challenges including financial, emotional and mental health, childcare and home maintenance.

Public safety staff brighten children's birthdays

Events like Cocoa with a Cop (pictured) and fire station tours help foster positive relationships between children and our first responders. But with in-person events largely canceled beginning in March, we had to try something new.

Kids missed out on having friends over for their birthdays during the pandemic — but public safety staff came to the rescue! Fire trucks and police cars delighted birthday boys and girls with chirping sirens, flashing lights and friendly waves to mark these special days.

Additional mental health co-responder helps police aptly address crisis calls

The Lenexa Police Department is committed to serving those with mental health needs and strives to stay current with the ever-changing landscape of the mental health crisis. Recognizing the need for additional support on mental health calls, the department added a second mental health co-responder in January 2020.

The mental health co-responder program’s goal is to provide the appropriate mental health intervention at the right time to prevent unnecessary arrests, decrease trips to the emergency room and reduce repeat police calls for service. The co-responder responds on scene with a law enforcement officer on calls when behavioral health is identified as a possible contributing factor. Co-responders also conduct outreach and follow-up calls to individuals who had police contact as a result of a behavioral crisis with the intention of getting the person the help they need.

The co-responder often works with trained officers from the Crisis Intervention Team to provide community-based interventions, follow-ups and referrals. This benefits those with mental health needs, the criminal justice system, and the community as a whole.

Having two mental health professionals embedded in the department allows for increased coverage hours, more timely follow-ups with those in crisis and frees patrol officers to respond to other calls for service.

Did you know? By late November 2020, Lenexa police responded to nearly 900 calls for service involving a mental health crisis.

Rejoining county program will help keep homes safe and maintained in 2021

This summer, the City of Lenexa rejoined Johnson County’s Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships programs. Lenexa had managed its own allocation of CDBG funding — a longtime program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — once it reached the minimum population to do so in 2015. 

Why is this important for Lenexans? By rejoining the County’s programs, residents will be able to take advantage of Johnson County’s more-robust home repair assistance services. 

These income-based programs can help fund a wider range of home improvements — including heating and cooling system repair/replacement, window replacement, wood rot repair, painting and roof replacement — than Lenexa’s current assistance programs. 

Lenexa residents will be eligible to apply after Jan. 1, 2021. To learn more, visit Lenexa.com/YourHome.

Senior Center finds new ways to serve residents with facility closed

Because the population it serves is at risk for severe illness, the Lenexa Senior Center was closed throughout the pandemic in 2020.

Rather than offering the usual group lunch program, the Senior Center became a weekday pickup site for hot meals through Johnson County Nutrition Services. See page 35 for more details on this program.

Lenexa Parks & Recreation also teamed up with retirement communities to provide free turkey dinners for 350 seniors as part of a drive-through Holiday Senior Banquet in December.

Smaller, safer celebrations

By limiting capacity and implementing other precautions in accordance with public health guidelines, we still offered rental facilities like Thompson Barn so important life milestones could be celebrated. If you’re looking for a place for a post-pandemic gathering, learn more at Lenexa.com/ThompsonBarn.

Police welcomed conversations with the public to strengthen relationship with the community and commitment to quality practices

The Lenexa Police Department welcomes civil and constructive dialogue, and this year saw many people seeking to learn more about our department. After the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — which we unequivocally denounced — we received numerous questions about our policies, training, equipment and accountability. What followed were many mutually respectful and productive conversations with the community. 

The Lenexa Police Department is never content with maintaining the status quo; we are always looking for ways to learn and adapt where needed. Our department has long advocated for and is committed to promoting equity and inclusion, good policing practices, transparent operations and stringent accountability standards.

You’ll find evidence of this commitment throughout our practices, including becoming the first law enforcement agency in the metro area to implement body-worn cameras for all officers, seeking guidance from a community advisory board and requiring extensive training.  

If you’re interested in learning more about how we handle areas such as use-of-force investigations, community engagement, accountability and professional standards, visit our Department Practices page. You’ll find helpful information about some of the most common questions we receive.  

Meeting increased need for recreation scholarships

The Lenexa Parks & Recreation Scholarship Program makes programs and memberships more affordable for Lenexa residents with demonstrated financial need. Since it began in 2017, this vital fund has provided scholarships to more than 125 families and individuals annually. 

We saw a 15% increase in scholarship requests in 2020. All of these were families asking for help with a Rec Center membership so they could have a healthy place to exercise and spend time. 

Make a donation at Lenexa.com/Scholarships.

Summer camps support working parents with safe child care

Lenexa’s licensed summer day camps were essential for child care needs during the pandemic, with 70 kids enrolled each week for the entire summer camp. Parks & Recreation extended the program five extra weeks into September due to delayed school openings, with an average of 40–50 kids per week.

Published Dec. 30, 2020