Department heads from the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center, Wichita police, COMCARE and 911 sit at the front of a meeting room.
Department heads from the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center, Wichita police, COMCARE and 911 dispatch address the community task force. (From meeting recording on Facebook)

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In response to the death of 17-year-old Cedric “CJ” Lofton a year ago, Sedgwick County asked 23 community members to form a task force to explore what systemic problems in foster care, emergency response and law enforcement contributed to his demise. The group was officially called the Community Task Force to Review Youth Corrections Systems Standards. It met 13 times over three months before issuing a list of recommendations for what could be done to prevent similar deaths in the future. 

The community task force recently had its 180-day update meeting. A moderate amount of progress was reported since their previous update. 

One notable change is Sedgwick County has launched a pilot program embedding mental health workers among the 911 emergency response team. But no progress has been made on the recommendation to seek a state audit of the “Stand Your Ground” law. Sedgwick County has decided to not include “Stand Your Ground” law reform in its 2023 legislative agenda.

A number of recommendations – particularly those applying to Wichita Police Department – remain stalled due to disagreement over the value of the recommendations.  

The Wichita Beacon on Sept. 28, 2022, published a subjective analysis looking at the task force’s 61 recommendations affecting Sedgwick County 911 and COMCARE mental health services, the Wichita Police Department, Sedgwick County’s Youth Corrections and the Kansas Department of Corrections. That analysis determined 13 recommendations were complete while another 24 were started and no significant progress was made on the remaining 24.

A month later Sedgwick County posted its own dashboard (embedded below). In a few instances, the county’s dashboard indicated less progress than our initial analysis. We have adjusted our indicators accordingly.  Changes in status are marked with an arrow. Currently we register 14 recommendations complete, 29 started and 18 with no significant progress. 

The Wichita Beacon offers the following summary of these recommendations and its own subjective analysis as to the relative progress on each. It is important to note that progress on many recommendations may not be possible without funding support from lawmakers and taxpayers.

🟢 Green indicates an item is complete. 
🟡 Yellow indicates ongoing work. 
🔴 Red indicates no significant progress or a failure to implement. 
➡️ Indicates a change in ranking has been made from our previous analysis.

The recommendations have been split into categories based on which organization or department they were directed to. 

Foster care
Sedgwick County 911 and COMCARE
Wichita Police Department (WPD)
Sedgwick County Youth Corrections
Kansas Department of Corrections

Sedgwick County and Wichita’s task force dashboard:

We have separated some recommendations into individual pieces to be uniquely graded. The dashboard from the county and city does not do that, creating a difference in the total number of recommendations issued. That is why we count 61 recommendations and the county dashboard only has 58.

Foster care

The task force recommends: 

1. Fully fund evidence-based prevention and early intervention programs for youth and families before youth are placed in the foster care system. 
🟡 Funding for evidence-based prevention programs in the Kansas Department for Children and Families budget was increased from $13 million to $20 million in the 2023 fiscal year. This money comes from state and federal sources. It is unclear whether this money will meet the goals of the task force’s recommendations.

2. Require foster care providers to have a local contact trained in mental health crisis response on call by phone 24/7 to help foster families find appropriate resources when faced with a mental health crisis.  Additionally, the Department for Children and Families and local law enforcement should clarify jurisdiction issues so that someone with an identified mental crisis is not left at a nonmedical facility.
🟢➡️🟡 DCF self-labeled this as in progress. DCF has implemented a 24/7 crisis line, but jurisdiction issues are not resolved. 

3. Create an ecosystem that connects community resources, grassroots organizations, advocates, coaches, champions and others with the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), law enforcement, Sedgwick County COMCARE, Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC), Juvenile Detention Facility (JDF) and other systems that serve foster care children in a mental health crisis.
🔴➡️🟡 A multitude of boards exist bringing collaborators together. DCF has started to reach out to groups. 

4. Formalize standard procedures so both a child placing agency and case management providers are legally responsible for the foster children in their care.
🔴 Both entities have guidelines that reflect their responsibilities for the well-being of children placed in foster care in Kansas.The guidelines are separate and not standardized

5. Develop and implement standardized training for foster care, law enforcement, 911 and juvenile justice personnel to include topics on de-escalation, mental health first aid, adolescent brain development and destigmatization of mental health, as well as when and under what circumstances a youth can and should be transferred to a mental health treatment facility as opposed to detention.
🔴 Though the various entities agree that such training is a good idea and available, no requirement of standardized training has been implemented.  

6. Require foster families to complete a standardized program in adverse childhood experiences (ACES) and trauma-informed care that is culturally relevant and gender-responsive. If they don’t participate, they are disqualified from participating in the foster care program. 
🔴 An array of training is offered and available to foster care parents including around adverse child experiences. But there is no requirement of culturally relevant and gender-responsive training. 

7. Require foster care agencies to ensure employees, foster families and foster children receive benefits that include mental health and mindfulness coaches; and ensure staffing allows employees to utilize such benefits and take vacations without returning to a backload of cases.
🟡➡️🔴 DCF has self labeled this as “not implemented” on the dashboard. There are already some services available and DCF has made no mention of expanding services. 

8. Expand the Crossover Youth Practice Model for sharing data and system protocols between DCF, school districts and the juvenile justice system to allow those agencies to effectively serve the foster youth in their care. 
🟡 DCF, Kansas Department of Corrections Juvenile Services (KDOCJS) and the state Office of Judicial Administration (OJA) are working with Georgetown University on bringing the Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM) to the entire state of Kansas. In Sedgwick County, DCF is testing to see how well crossover programs function.

9. Support the passage of HB 2468 and HB 2469, which establish the foster youth and foster parent bill of rights and require distribution to each foster youth and foster family; ask Sedgwick County to add HB 2468 and HB 2469 to its 2023 legislative agenda.
🔴 DCF supported both bills in the 2022 legislative session but neither became law. 

10. Administer an assessment (using disaggregated data) of the youth in the foster care system that allows root cause issues to be identified and a strategic plan to be developed that will address barriers and systemic issues.
🔴➡️🟡 Current efforts are underway with the Capacity Building Center for States in examining root causes related to placement instability for youth in foster care. ​​DCF and case management providers are bringing this data and information to stakeholders.

11. The Department for Children and Families should design and disseminate a road map to assist foster families in accessing community services and support to aid in the care of youth in the foster care system. 
🟢➡️🟡 DCF has self-labeled this recommendation as “in progress.” Road maps were created to the Family Crisis Support Helpline and provided to foster care agencies and foster parents. Additionally the 211 hotline in Sedgwick County provides information about additional social support resources.

12. Support the enactment of SB 12 (approved in 2022), which requires DCF to develop an implementation plan for a set of performance-based contracts to provide an array of evidence-based prevention and early intervention services. 
🟡 DCF completed a number of community conversations during the summer of 2022. All information gleaned from both Wichita meetings was forwarded to the central office and is being put into a report to the Kansas State Legislature to be shared during the 2023 legislative session.

13. Extend a thank-you to foster families for the support and sacrifice they make in providing homes for children in need of care.
🟢➡️🟡 DCF self-labeled this as “in progress.” DCF reports that child-placing agencies regularly host events to show gratitude and thanks to foster parents for their commitment and care for children in Kansas.

14. Develop and implement a pre/post survey to evaluate satisfaction of families who participate in Family First and Family Preservation programs. Utilize feedback to enhance program and service delivery.
🔴 DCF says it will share the recommendation with advisory groups for further exploration.

Sedgwick County 911 and COMCARE

The task force recommends: 

1. Develop an uninterrupted, 24/7 mobile mental health response system that can be dispatched by 911 through a combination of the following:

1a. Increase funding for COMCARE mobile response team to increase availability. 
🟢 COMCARE has filled all full-time positions dedicated to mobile crisis response, which includes three clinicians and two integrated care specialists.

1b. Increase funding for ICT-1 so they can be available 24/7. (ICT-1 is an emergency response team composed of a mental health professional, a law enforcement officer and a paramedic.)
🔴➡️🟡 The city of Wichita has dedicated funding for mental health staff. There will be four mobile response teams comprising a clinician and an integrated care specialist who will be available to accompany WPD on calls or to respond on their own to 911 calls that do not warrant a law enforcement response. Availability will only be from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m., not 24/7. Dispatch will still send police officers to someone attempting suicide per the flow chart presented here

1c. Develop and implement a new crisis response model that focuses on having a mental health and medical responder available for crisis calls, with a process in place to engage with law enforcement as appropriate. 
🟢 COMCARE created five integrated care specialist positions to answer calls from the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, which went live in July. Additionally, one full-time mobile crisis clinician position was created to provide mobile response. Legislation was signed providing funding to support 988 demands. Sedgwick County COMCARE will be awarded $1,080,000 this year. The opportunity to call a mental health expert was already an option before this implementation but was not used by WPD the night Cedric Lofton was arrested. 

2. Embed qualified mental health providers within the 911 system on models from Austin, Texas,  and Colorado. 
🔴➡️🟡 COMCARE and Emergency Communications have partnered to start a pilot program for an embedded mental health worker in dispatch. Policies and procedures have been established, a job description created, and the hiring process has begun. 

3. Add a continuing education coordinator to the 911 budget to train 911 employees to better screen callers, evaluate mental health needs and then transfer to COMCARE as appropriate.
🔴 A new position is not being added to the 2023 budget or the 911 staffing due to “staffing and workforce deficiencies.” It may be in the future should conditions change.

4. By December 2022, establish a community advisory board that reflects the diverse communities 911 serves.  This advisory board should create plans for transparency and acknowledgement of board members’ conflicts of interest. 
🟡 Work on this is underway but will be delayed until January 2023 to allow the newly seated County Commission to appoint members.

5. Address the high turnover rates at 911 by continuing to improve pay; improve diversity in recruitment and hiring for 911 staff; and add benefits that focus on the wellness of 911 personnel. 
🟡 The County Commission approved a pay plan to enhance compensation for 911 personnel on Nov. 16, 2022. Diversity work still not done.

Wichita Police Department (WPD) 

The task force recommends:

1. Increase funding for COMCARE mobile mental health unit and ICT-1 so they can be available 24/7 and dispatched by 911 as a resource that serves the community.
🟡 The city allocated $750,000 for this in the 2023 fiscal year budget. There will be four mobile response teams comprising a clinician and an integrated care specialist who will be available to accompany WPD on calls or to respond on their own to 911 calls that do not warrant a law enforcement response. Availability will only be from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m., not 24/7.

2. Develop and implement standardized training for foster care, law enforcement, 911 and juvenile justice JIAC and JDF personnel, to include topics on de-escalation, mental health first aid, adolescent brain development and destigmatization of mental health, as well as when and under what circumstances a youth can and should be transferred to a mental health treatment facility as opposed to detention.
🔴 No action. WPD says this recommendation will be fulfilled through action by other departments (Foster Care #3 and Corrections #24). 

3. Create an ecosystem that connects community resources, grassroots organizations, advocates, coaches, champions and others with the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), law enforcement, Sedgwick County COMCARE, Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC) and Juvenile Detention Facility (JDF) and other systems that serve foster care children in a mental health crisis.
🔴 No action. WPD says this recommendation will be fulfilled through action by other departments (Foster Care #5 and Corrections #17). 

4. By 2023, create a centralized database at WPD of grassroots organizations as a resource for future collaborations. Additionally, the database will track what it is doing to address biases and build trust with marginalized groups throughout the community. 
🟡➡️🟢 Community response information is available on its website. Grassroots organization list is here.

5. Hire three full-time and three part-time qualified mental health professionals to be on staff to support WPD employees. 
🔴 WPD reports it will utilize existing in-house social workers to implement this and not make any additional hires. 

6. Require mandatory trauma-informed training for law enforcement to better understand and serve all members of the community — but especially those from minority, underserved and at-risk populations. 
🟡 WPD reports that all recruits in the past five years receive such training. Existing officers receive refresher courses “after a few years” and detectives receive a five-day class. 

Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center is working to implement this training in curriculum at the state level. 

7. Require crisis intervention training (CIT) for all law enforcement supervisors and for all law enforcement officers between their third and fifth year in the field. Officers who are between one and two years of service should be required to attend continuing mental health education to ensure officers remain up to date on mental health practices and changes.
🔴➡️🟡 This training is offered once a year but WPD previously reported “a challenge with scheduling” and lack of capacity to provide everyone the training. The state may provide support. Training has started for CIT instructors.

8. Create a culture at WPD that lives up to the expectations to “protect and serve” all people in Wichita’s diverse community. Add an annual review of employee expectations and policies to identify ineffective processes and unacceptable behaviors. This recommendation directs special attention be paid to racist text messages sent/received by several members of the police department.
🟡 WPD states that Jensen Hughes interviews are complete. Jensen Hughes consults law enforcement agencies on how to improve internal culture and public trust. A report will be made public after it is finished. 

9. Require officers to leave body cameras on throughout an entire incident, including the completion of paperwork. Additionally, a process should be developed for random review of footage as a part of the officers’ periodic coaching and annual performance evaluation. 
🔴 No requirement for leaving body cameras on has been implemented. WPD says it will implement random reviews of body footage but will not require the camera be left on due to battery limitations. 

10. Require training related to mental health, trauma, cultural and gender diversity and implicit bias be required at regular intervals for all law enforcement and juvenile corrections personnel.
🟡 WPD reports that annual bias training is required but in its response does not mention whether that covers mental health, trauma or gender diversity specifically.

11. Foster a culture at WPD that allows exceptions to police protocols so an officer can escalate above the supervisor’s order when responding to calls involving foster youth in a mental health crisis. This is needed due to the complexities of multiple jurisdictions and custodies involved when a child is in the foster care system.
🟡➡️🔴 WPD states that industry best practices will be implemented and not the task force recommendation. 

12. Develop and implement a memorandum of understanding  between the Wichita Police Department and Juvenile Intake Assessment Center (JIAC) that honors the 2016 U.S. attorney general opinion and clearly outlines that arrest reports must be completed before a youth is released to JIAC. The arrest report should include all details from the original classification of the call from dispatch to final classification of the call when the youth arrives at JIAC, all expectations for youth brought to the facility, transfers, arrest reports, officer release form, etc.
🟢 Memorandum of understanding is written and signed by the WPD and the county (JIAC).

13. Ongoing implicit bias training and testing that includes, race, culture and gender diversity for all law enforcement officers and supervisors.
🟡 WPD reports that annual bias training is required but its response does not mention testing or whether training covers mental health, trauma or gender diversity specifically.

14. Expand community support specialists at WPD.
🔴 This requires additional funding from the Department for Children and Families.

Sedgwick County Youth Corrections

The task force recommends: 

1. Update by July 1, 2022, the use-of-force policy for the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center so it states: “Once youth is secured in a cell, instead of holding him/her down in the prone position, close the cell and allow the youth to calm down.  Do not use any position that covers the youth’s chest.  Only allow the prone position to be used to cuff and sit or cuff and stand.  One staff person is responsible for video/audio recording any incidents of restraint, keeping time to ensure a youth is sitting or standing immediately after cuffing/restraining, and the youth is in overall good health and wellbeing. This person would also be observing employees and in charge of ‘tapping out’ anyone who appears to have reached his or her physical, mental, or emotional limit when working with a youth. This person should never assist in restraining the youth.”
🟡 Sedgwick County reports that it updated the policy and has been approved locally by the Sedgwick County commissioners. It is still under legal review and requires approval from the Kansas Department of Corrections.

2. Increase Sedgwick County funding to the Juvenile Detention Facility to provide for core mental health services that support JIAC rather than depend on grant funds at the local level.
🟢County indicates this is complete.

3. Require a nursing staff person to be present at JIAC/Juvenile Detention Facility 24/7.
🟢County indicates this is complete. 

4. Establish a long-term goal for the Kansas Department of Corrections to move juvenile justice systems to a restorative justice system.
🔴 Sedgwick County states they support the move but no progress has been made to change.

5. Support the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coalition’s legislative agenda to increase the number of mental health professionals in Sedgwick County.
🔴➡️🟡 Sedgwick County states they support increasing the number of mental health professionals and has included it in their legislative agenda. 

6. Request a legislative post-audit to examine the implications of the “stand your ground” laws, particularly as they relate to incidents involving law enforcement.
🔴 Sedgwick County states this is ongoing. In their legislative agenda, they do not specifically support an examination of “stand your ground” laws. 

7. Ensure the Juvenile Intake and Assessment Center (JIAC) and the Juvenile Detention Facility (JDF) provide trauma care services for youth who experience a traumatic, crisis event while at JIAC or JDF. Services could be delivered on-site as well as in the community once a child is released.
🟢 Services included in JDF medical contract effective Aug. 25, 2022. A federal Bureau of Justice Assistance grant will provide for aftercare services.  

8. Require crisis intervention training for JIAC and JDF personnel. 
🟡 Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office planned to offer this training for residential staff members and field services staff members beginning September 2022. There is no mention of whether it was required.   

9. Create a database at JIAC that identifies grassroots organizations serving youth impacted by the youth correction systems. Organizations listed in the database will be engaged and provided with technical assistance to apply for grant funds to see that culturally relevant gender- and trauma-based programs are available for youth.
🟡➡️🟢 Started and ongoing.

10. Establish a “calming room” at JIAC that could be safe for youth experiencing some form of distress, where they can be safely left alone and not restrained.
🟡➡️🟢 Completed and in use.

11. Prioritize in the county’s upcoming Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) budget updates for the video recording system at JIAC to cover more areas of the lobby and holding rooms, and a recording system that includes audio capacity.
🔴➡️🟡 Unforeseen problems with improving the video system have delayed the process. 

12. Support expansion of the statewide Crossover Youth Practice model implementation to every judicial district in Kansas and develop local protocols to serve youth involved in child welfare and juvenile justice systems. 
🔴➡️🟡 Sedgwick County states that this is ongoing. 

13. Create and staff a citizens review board for JIAC and JDF, with quasi-judicial powers.
🔴 County indicates it is “researching possible structure” but makes no commitment. Clarification was asked for at the 180-day update and stated further legislation may be required to fully implement. 

14. Implement ongoing implicit bias training and testing that includes race, culture and gender diversity for all JIAC and JDF personnel.
🟡➡️🟢 County indicated this complete. Schedule for first-quarter training in 2023 has been completed and there are plans for further training after. 

15. Ensure reliable service for remote/virtual access to mental health consults at JIAC and JDF from COMCARE or another mental health provider. The providers need to be available 24/7.
🟢 County indicates this is complete.

16. Update the language of the JIAC medical criteria for admission form 8.804 so it requires current and accurate information prior to transfer.
🟢 County indicates this is complete.

17. Require all training related to mental health, trauma, cultural and gender diversity and implicit bias be required at regular intervals for all law enforcement, JIAC and JDF personnel. 
🔴 County indicates such training is included in new training modules but makes no mention of whether all personnel will receive it. In the 90-day update meeting with the community task force it was stated that only some of the topics are mandatory. 

18. Develop and implement a memorandum of understanding between the Wichita Police Department and Juvenile Intake Assessment Center (JIAC) that honors the 2016 U.S. attorney general opinion and clearly outlines that the arrest report must be completed before youth is released to JIAC. The arrest report should include all details from the original classification of the call from dispatch to final classification of the call when the youth arrives at JIAC, all expectations for youth brought to the facility, transfers, arrest reports, officer release form, etc. 
🟢 Included in WPD memorandum of understanding.  

19. Require law enforcement officers who bring an allegedly combative, noncompliant youth into the JIAC to stay on scene, or nearby, until the juvenile is processed.
🟡 County says this has been agreed upon in the MOU. It is unclear whether training has been completed.

20. Strive for parity in programs for those impacted by the youth corrections systems, through intentional engagement and funding of culturally competent and gender responsive programming.
🟡 Contracting with Wichita State University for research in this area.  

21. Not allowing a juvenile in a wrap restraint to be brought into the JIAC facility.
🟢 County indicates this is complete.

22. Don’t allow a single JIAC worker to handle intake for someone described as “a combative juvenile.”
🟡 County says this has been agreed upon in the MOU. It is unclear whether training has been completed.

23. Ensure all juveniles at JIAC are separated from one another (taken to another room), so they are not exposed to potentially traumatic events in the common areas.
🟡 County indicates this is complete but has not indicated that training has been completed.

24. Strengthen the Individual Justice Plan process used in different organizations throughout Sedgwick County.
🟡 County workgroup reviewing processes. All noted agencies have started to meet.

25. Using Team Justice, Sedgwick County’s juvenile corrections advisory board, as a vehicle to gain community volunteers for the Crossover Youth Practice Model (CYPM), which seeks to reduce the number of youth interacting with both the foster care system and the juvenile justice system.
🟡 County is relying on Wichita State University consultants to identify volunteers for the CYPM.

Kansas Department of Corrections

Establishing a long-term goal for the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) to develop and implement a strategy that moves juvenile justice systems to a restorative justice system.
🔴 KDOC says it supports the concepts of restorative justice but leaves it to local communities to set their own priorities. The department pledges to partner with national experts on restorative justice and evaluate the need for assessment of current practice and/or policy/standards.  

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Trace Salzbrenner

Trace Salzbrenner is a community journalist for The Wichita Beacon. Follow him on Twitter @RealTraceAlan.