Overland Park Police Officer Kathy Morgan Helping Lead the Charge for Mental Health Among Fellow Officers
For individuals who dedicate their professional career to law enforcement, their passion is to protect and serve others. Oftentimes, that comes at the expense of neglecting their own physical and mental well-being.
For decades, mental health was a topic that many in law enforcement didn’t talk much about. But, in recent years, it has gained a significant amount of attention.
Kathy Morgan, a 25-year veteran of the Overland Park Police Department, is one who decided to do something about it.
“It’s essential that we take care of our officers’ health and that includes the mental as well as the physical,” Morgan said. “Routine and accumulated stress can take its toll on the mental well-being of officers. It is crucial they are provided the time to debrief after a critical incident and have a peer to talk to when needed.”
That’s why Morgan helped the OPPD start the Peer Support Program in 2018. It consists of officers who are selected and trained to be a confidential resource for fellow officers.
The Peer Support “members” are available to help their comrades work through the pressure and trauma that comes with the line of duty. At times, it may be as simple as lending a listening ear for officers who want to talk about work challenges or family-related needs.
“It may just be a five-minute conversation. It doesn’t have to be anything in-depth,” Morgan said. “And these peer support individuals are people who are just good listeners, that’s a huge part of it.”
The successful program has grown rapidly the past two years. Morgan said the Overland Park department is up to 24 trained members. “We are very fortunate to have a great group of dedicated Peer Support members. They are the ones who make the program work so well.”
The support program is one of the most rewarding aspects of her career and it’s something that has evolved from her personal development in law enforcement over the years.
Morgan grew up on a small farm in Burlington, KS, where she says her parents were very influential in encouraging and modeling how to seek excellence. At an early age, she knew that serving the community in law enforcement is what she wanted to pursue as a career.
She attended nearby Washburn University in Topeka, earning a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice. She then secured a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Kansas.
Her long career of service in Overland Park has included Patrol, Community Policing, Training, Traffic and Investigations. She currently serves as Commander for the Downtown Division.
It’s been that comprehensive scope of duties that has led Morgan to gain a great understanding of what law enforcement officers deal with every day. And it has instilled a deep desire within her to help officers to remain healthy in all aspects of life.
“If I had to summarize the Peer Support Program in one word, it would be ‘impactful.’ It is a good feeling to know that we are improving the whole health of our officers for the long-term.”
For her 25 years of service in law enforcement in Overland Park and her leadership in launching and growing the Peer Support Program, Morgan is being honored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City and the Kansas City Royals as a Blue KC Hometown Hero. She will be recognized at the Royals game on Friday, July 16.
It is a fitting recognition to someone who is constantly looking to help better the lives of others.