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New state grant money will fund therapists who respond with law - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

New state grant money will fund therapists who respond with law enforcement

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In looking back at the shooting in Douglas County that killed a Sheriff's deputy, many agencies are evaluating whether or not responding to calls that include mental health issues would be more effective when responding with a therapist too.

"We will definitely review that incident and agencies throughout the country will do that to see what if anything we could have done better," said Clif Northam, Commander of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.  "We are hoping to have all of our patrol deputies, first all the patrol deputies and then all the detention deputies as well completely mental health, first aid trained 100% hopefully by 2020."

Many agencies across the state are beginning to find around-the-clock therapists to respond to these types of calls.

Pueblo Police Department has had therapists responding to calls for the past year and have helped over 600 people find mental health services that they otherwise may not have been able to.

"A lot of those people wouldn't normally have known or been able to seek any kind of assistance on their own for any mental health needs, the program has opened up the doors for mental health counseling for a whole host of people that would have otherwise slipped through the cracks," said Joe Garcia, Captain with the Pueblo Police Department.

Through Crestone Recovery Health Solutions in Pueblo and a state grant, $300,000 dollars was spent to provide this mental health support on scenes.

Later this month, the state's Office of Behavioral Health will announce new grant recipients and sheriff's offices like El Paso County have applied and hope they get some of that money.

"It makes a huge difference when dealing with people in mental health crisis, or who have a mental health diagnosis or mental health problems, how we approach them, how you talk to them," said Northam.  "They'll help us divert those folks from the ER room, it will help us to maybe find proper resources for them right there as opposed to the fall back over the past years which is, this person goes to jail."

"Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) is a National Institute of Justice promising practice that has been shown to reduce recidivism, improve police and community relations, and offer cost savings by providing infrastructure required for diverting individuals to supportive resources and away from further involvement in the criminal justice system. Colorado’s LEAD Pilot Program will offer an innovative alternative that can immediately divert individuals to substance use treatment services in lieu of the criminal justice pathway. By diverting individuals with low-level drug and prostitution offenses into intensive community-based social services, the LEAD Pilot Program should reduce neighborhood crime and get people into the treatment they need," said Jagruti Shah, Director of Criminal Justice Services at the Office of Behavioral Health in the Colorado Department of Human Services.  

"The Co-Responder model was developed in Los Angeles and San Diego. Leaders in those jurisdictions attempted to address the need to link people with mental illnesses to appropriate services or provide other effective and efficient responses. They identified limitations around officers’ time and lack of awareness about community mental health resources. They then developed the Co-Responder approach that pairs specially trained officers with mental health professionals to provide a joint response. Colorado's Co-Responder Services creates law enforcement and behavioral health partnerships by following the best practice guidelines identified by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The funded programs will identify calls for service where behavioral health, which includes both mental health and substance use disorders, might be the relevant factor. "

El Paso County Sheriff's Office is already thinking about how they'll start up and structure the program, if they are fortunate enough to be selected for that grant money.

"We'll have people on call that will respond with us at times and then at times when those folks would normally be on call will hop in a car with a deputy and actually go out and ride along," said Northam.  "We may have those mental health professionals ride along with deputies who are CIT trained or mental health, first aid trained deputies, so we have some knowledge and we're with the professionals."

News 5 will report the release of those grant recipients when they are announced.

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