CASTLE ROCK, Colo. (KDVR) — Douglas County Detective Dan Brite has lived through and survived most first responders’ nightmares after a shootout with a suspect in 2016 sent him to the hospital.

“I was hit. Died twice at Parker hospital,” Brite said.

Brite’s road to recovery wasn’t easy, as he struggled with mental health, suicidal thoughts and finding new meaning after the shooting left him wheelchair-bound and unable to perform his previous duties on the street.

But through that adversity, opportunity. He was appointed the first coordinator of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office wellness program in February 2019 and has been working with deputies to wrestle with their own mental health struggles ever since.

“Law enforcement has a very high divorce rate,” Sheriff Tony Spurlock said. “We have a high suicide rate. We have a very high chronic illness rate. Just a lot of things that are all brought back to stress.”

Spurlock said connecting employees and their families to every service, from substance abuse and mental health treatment to chiropractic work, has been one of the best investments the department has made during his eight-year tenure as sheriff.

“We have saved employees’ lives, in my opinion,” Spurlock said. “We have saved employees’ careers because they can turn to wellness and we can get them into treatment programs.”

Spurlock believes the program has prevented some deputies from retiring early and even helped recruit first responders from other agencies to Douglas County.

Brite coordinates with businesses in the community for the wide array of services, bringing some in-house and coordinating appointments outside the office for employees.

“We’ve reduced our workers’ comp costs by 40%, just by investing in their mental health,” Brite said. “When you invest in their mental health, that improves their interactions with the community, that improves their decision making, their judgment calls. Everything seems to improve when you invest in their mental health.”