MPACT named ‘Program of the Year’

T-R PHOTOS BY JOE FISHER — Autumn Drewelow, Darcy Andersen, David Hicks, Chief Mike Tupper and Ryan Keller accepted the Program of the Year Award from the Iowa City/County Management Association during Monday’s City Council meeting.

Marshalltown’s most exciting new program is already earning praise.

The Marshalltown Police and Community Team — MPACT — was named Program of the Year by the Iowa City/County Management Association.

MPACT was nominated for the award by City Administrator Jessica Kinser after city staff reviewed which programs would make good candidates. Kinser presented the award to the MPACT team and YSS Marshalltown Director David Hicks during Monday’s City Council meeting.

“It was great to see how much the program resonated with my peer group and to be able to talk about how this program can be replicated with communities of any size,” Kinser said.

MPACT, a partnership between Youth Shelter Services and the Marshalltown Police Department, launched earlier this year. It partners social workers, referred to as community advocates, with law enforcement officers to respond to calls when appropriate. Darcy Andersen and Autumn Drewelow were hired to serve as the community advocates at the launch of the program.

YSS Director David Hicks speaks to the City Council after MPACT received the Program of the Year Award from the Iowa City/County Management Association. City staff and City Administrator Jessica Kinser chose MPACT for nomination for the award.

Situations where the community advocates will be called in include matters of food insecurity, homelessness and domestic issues. The advocates can help people find resources within the community, including mental health services.

Earning statewide praise affirms to Ryan Keller, program supervisor and mental health therapist with YSS, the program is accomplishing its intended goals.

“Our advocates do a great job of breaking down the barriers or stigma of coming to therapy,” Keller said. “We’re seeing more and more people from reports, not only are we identifying they have a mental health need, but they’re reconnecting with their therapist. That’s not always YSS. That’s any therapist in Marshalltown. Or they’re getting into therapy for the first time.”

Keller said about 39 percent of MPACT’s calls are mental health related, but it also reports a large number of housing or food insecurity related issues in the community.

Not all people who MPACT responds to follow up with seeking therapy. Those who have followed up have had success though, according to Keller.

“The clients who have worked with me; every one of them is making progress,” he said. “And those same clients have not recontacted the police.”

Police Chief Mike Tupper said his officers have embraced the opportunity to work with community advocates Andersen and Drewelow.

“They have embraced it. The only complaint we receive is now when can we have them here 24 hours a day,” Tupper said. “That’s something we’d like to work toward.”

MPACT was funded for its inaugural year by a $150,000 contribution from the city. YSS has secured some grants to keep the program running in 2022, but Tupper notes everyone involved is still looking for long-term funding.

“What we do know is this concept is a good idea and it’s working,” Tupper said. “We also know we need time to study it to find the best way to provide these services and get the most bang for our buck.”

Other cities and police departments are seeing the difference MPACT is making. YSS Director David Hicks said MPACT leaders have spoken to Grinnell and Ames police about the program.

“Marshalltown is kind of writing the handbook for how community policing could be or maybe should be,” Hicks said. “It’s incredible, the amount of support it has received. People are realizing we’re on to something.”

A year ago, MPACT was an ambitious idea. With it up and running for just a few months the overall consensus agreed it was a good idea.

“Sometimes maybe we need to take more risks because the rewards are great,” Hicks said. “We, and the city, took a risk and we have the right people in the right places to carry this out. People are moved by it. This is the future right now.”


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