Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A crisis: In memory of all the Jordyns & Kobes August 12, 2022

A rural Rice County, Minnesota, cemetery. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo used for illustration only)

NOT AGAIN. My reaction zipped in a flashpoint of disbelief over yet another young Minnesota man shot and killed by police while experiencing a mental health crisis.

The latest to die is Jordyn Hansen, 21, formerly of Faribault. He recently moved to Otsego in the northwest metro to live with an aunt and uncle. There, according to his aunt who was interviewed by a reporter from the Minneapolis Star Tribune, they hoped Jordyn could recover away from a previous lifestyle that amplified his mental health challenges. He had a history of mental illness and substance abuse and had been in treatment.

When Jordyn experienced another crisis early Sunday morning, his family members called police. Narratives of what happened after law enforcement arrived are vastly different. The police say one thing, the family another. In the end, the family seeking help for their loved one is now attending a funeral, which will be held this morning at my church in Faribault.

I didn’t know Jordyn or his family. Nor do I know the family of Kobe Dimock-Heisler, a 21-year-old man on the autism spectrum who was shot and killed by Brooklyn Center police in 2019.

Both cases involved families seeking help in a crisis. Both involved police response. Both involved knives and tasers and six gunshots that killed two young men. Each only 21 years old, with families and friends who loved them.

I could cite many similar cases, but I’ll leave it at that as I process how upset I feel about the deaths of Jordyn and of Kobe. I can’t put myself inside the heads of responding police officers. Nor was I there to witness what unfolded during each emergency. But I can, as a mother and community member, express my deep concern for this ongoing loss of life among those experiencing a mental health or other crisis. Why does this keep happening? And how can we “fix” this so no family member has to worry about their loved one being shot and killed when they call for help?

Jordyn’s family has started a gofundme fundraiser to help cover his funeral expenses. The goal is $10,000. Jason Heisler, Kobe’s father, donated $21 to the cause. I assume he chose that amount because both his son and Jordyn were 21 at the times of their deaths. It should be noted here that the National Alliance on Mental Illness defines autism as the following: Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental condition that affects a person’s ability to socialize and communicate with others. Consider that when you think of Kobe, who was on the autism spectrum.

Jason Heisler left (in part) this powerful comment on Jordyn’s gofundme site: …preventable should of never happened to this beautiful boy and his family. A mental crisis is not a crime.

Let me repeat that: A mental crisis is not a crime.

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I am grateful to the many professionals, individuals and organizations (like the National Alliance on Mental Illness) that are working hard to improve mental healthcare and the response to those in a mental health crisis. Through education, training, advocacy, understanding, awareness, compassionate response and intervention, change is happening. Yet, the pace of change feels too slow. A key component in all of this is listening and communication. The approach to individuals in a mental health crisis needs to be thoughtful. A shift in attitudes to recognize that mental health is health should be the standard, not the exception.

I encourage you to help cover Jordyn’s funeral expenses by donating via his gofundme page or giving directly to his family. Thank you.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

16 Responses to “A crisis: In memory of all the Jordyns & Kobes”

  1. Tragic!
    I think the focus on training in the law enforcement departments is long over due! I know from my personal experience last year that an old lady with a stick was considered a threat! Coming at anyone in some sorta of mental crisis is not the answer!!! It only makes things more stressful on the individual experiencing the crisis.
    The natural reaction of the brain when threatened is to fight or flight. Departments need to find a better way of dealing with these situations other than brutal force!!!!
    Sorry to hear these two young lives were cut short due to the lack of compassion and training. Yes, I also understand we don’t know the full stories of these two individual cases but still, I know there are better ways other than bullets and tasers in dealing with difficult situations.

    • Well summarized, Paula. I wish you hadn’t experienced this type of treatment. I’m sorry. Your “in crisis” perspective is a story we all need to hear. Thank you for sharing that and your thoughts on how not to respond in a crisis. It makes total sense.

      • Nothing as scary as an old lady swinging a stick. 🙄 Could have ended the same way as those two young people only I bolted and fell and was knocked unconscious. My PTSD has had some serious outcomes and people should understand that kindness and non threatening approach is a better solution when someone is suffering mental distress. Our society has much to learn and I share this experience as hopefully it might save a life in the future. Thanks again for writing about these two individuals.

      • Paula, I deeply appreciate your sharing your experience when your PTSD flared. I understand why you feel the outcome could have been different for you. Yes, you are helping all of us better understand and that is a gift. I am grateful for your openness and honesty.

  2. beth Says:

    heartbreaking and tragic. and so unnecessary. why we need more mental heath support and why we need other kinds of responses to a person in crisis.

  3. Rani Says:

    I absolutely agree that this is tragic!
    May I ask each of you three questions? First, have you ever experienced a mentally ill person attack you with or without a weapon? Second, are you going to let that person kill you? Third, if you have a family member who is mentally ill and having an episode why did you call the police? (Maybe because you’re afraid that they may harm you?) Try standing in the shoes of the HUMAN BEING who wants to, and has a right like everyone else, to go home alive and is being assaulted. I have fought a mentally ill person who did NOT have a weapon. He had the strength of multiple people and the only reason we were able to subdue him was because 6 of us brought him down. By the grace of God he did not have a weapon and I was not alone! Otherwise, this would have ended differently. I was a rookie police officer and had never experienced anything like this in my life! I am retired now, but not all of my friends were as blessed. One friend died 9 days after being shot by a mentally ill person in the parking lot of the police department. A female officer died on the scene. What I am saying is that police officers are human beings who have to make incredibly difficult decisions, and then have to TRY to live with the results, while living under a microscope. We HAVE been trained, and trained…by psychologists and numerous mental health professionals but all the training in the world won’t stop people from coming at us. Once on scene a police officer is required to resolve the situation because people are still in danger. Leaving the scene is not an option! It sickens me to hear of the people that are killed by police officers, especially when officers cross the line!!! But defending yourself in an attack is everyone’s right, even police officers.

    • Rani, I am deeply sorry for the loss of your friend/fellow officer. This, too, is tragic. Any loss of life is tragic.

      I appreciate you sharing a law enforcement perspective. I appreciate also hearing details of your training.

      As a whole, I value the communication and discussion on this topic of response to those experiencing a mental health crisis. We’re talking to one another and, hopefully, listening. New programs and responses are being implemented. And, yes, I do write with knowledge, not on the level you asked about in your comment, but (without divulging confidence) via situations which have deeply impacted me.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and insights as a retired police officer.

    • This is the precise reason for Travis’ Law. Less than 1% of mental health crisis calls involve a weapon or threat. The very presence of uniformed officers can escalate a situation and no amount of training can change that. Police have a certain function and we need them to perform that function. But I wouldn’t expect a police response if my house was on fire or I was having chest pains. I would expect that if I call 911, I would get the most appropriate responses to those situations. It should be the same thing with mental health crisis calls. Under MN Statute, mental health crisis response teams can only be made up of licensed mental health professionals, practitioners and peer counselors who have thousands of hours of training as required by their licenses. Even in situations were there is some threat, a co-responder team of law enforcement and the mental health crisis team should respond to the call. Law enforcement officers should not have to respond to these calls on their own.

      Travis’ Law went into effect 9/1/21. Since then, several counties have successfully implemented it. They are seeing that it provides the best outcomes for vulnerable people while saving money by not entangling people in the criminal justice system or unnecessary hospitalization by stabilizing most people in the community. I look forward to the day when we recognize a new paradigm where mental illness is not criminalized and people are provided the care they deserve.

      • Michelle, I realize you are responding to another comment that is not mine. But I want to thank you for your additional information and explanation, which make total sense to me. Thank you for providing all of us with this detailed info.– Audrey

  4. Thank you for your compassionate post. I wanted to share information with your readers about Travis’ Law, passed by the MN legislature in 2021. This statute requires 911 call centers to refer mental health crisis calls to mental health crisis response teams. This is exceedingly important because 50% of people killed by law enforcement are in the throes of a mental health crisis at the time.

    We are fortunate in Minnesota that mental health crisis teams are available in all 87 counties of the state. Even before the passage of Travis’ Law, Ramsey County rarely sends law enforcement to mental health crisis calls. When they do, it is as part of a co-response. In Dakota County, over 90% of these calls are referred to the mental health crisis response team. However, the Sheriffs of some rural counties have been resistant to implementing Travis’ Law. The community needs to demand that this service be available and funded to reduce the kinds of tragedies you outline in your post.

    • Michelle, thank you for sharing this information about Travis’ Law. I was unaware of this law. How I missed this, I don’t know as I consider myself a pretty informed person. I deeply appreciate your informing me and my readers.

      I am thankful to hear of these mental health crisis teams in Minnesota. I became aware several years ago of one serving my county of Rice. But I really still don’t know much about it. Perhaps a strong marketing campaign is needed to increase public awareness of a law which requires 911 dispatchers to refer mental health crisis calls to mental health response teams. If it truly works as intended, this would be a relief to families seeking help for a loved one in a mental health crisis. And a relief to those in crisis.

      After reading your comment, I researched more and found this article on MinnPost, in which you are quoted. It helped me better understand the law, the challenges and the good that’s coming from it.

      https://www.minnpost.com/greater-minnesota/2021/12/what-one-greater-minnesota-citys-experience-says-about-the-states-efforts-to-integrate-mental-health-and-police-work/

  5. My thought exactly – not again and so tragic. The organization I work for services multiple counties and one county in particular just celebrated 50 years of behavioral health services provided by the organization I work for. Blows my mind because just recently the doors were blown a little more open in regards to mental health! It is a community collaboration with medical professionals, first responders, schools, etc. What are the needs, what are the services needed, what collaboration can be done to help with access, services, costs, etc. Mental health is key to a whole, well being and the need for services as well as access to those services is there and glad to see it being addressed and discussed. Appreciate you sharing and continuing to shed light on this important topic – thanks.

    • What a terrific organization you work for, Renee. Yes, collaboration is key in response to a mental health crisis. Collaboration is key in mental health, period. Thank you for sharing about what’s happening in your area of Florida.

      I see progress here in Minnesota, but much work remains to be done to improve response to those experiencing a mental health crisis. We need more mental healthcare professionals also so everyone who needs care can get it when they need it, not six weeks later. The wait time now is unacceptable.

    • Progress is happening and now access to care needs to step up a bit. I know there is access issues just to health care too. I waiting months to see a primary (4 months) and good thing I am fairly healthy. This wait time either pushes people off seeking care or ending up in an emergency situation (which is not good all around – health and well being, costs, a decline in health due to waiting, etc.). We really have to advocate for ourselves as well as others when and if we can.


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