ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) — Dialing 911 in an emergency has been embedded in our nation’s psyche, but sometimes those emergencies can be handled by someone other than an officer in uniform.
Law enforcement agencies across Colorado are recognizing this in departments big and small. Denver’s Support Team Assistance Response program started in June of 2020 and is now expanding after receiving more funding.
Smaller departments, like Englewood police, are now finding creative ways to partner with local resources to address the growing need for mental health calls.
“We’re about four years into having a co-responder program here in Englewood and two years ago one of the co-responders and I sat down and said ‘What can we do next? How can we better address mental health issues in the community?'” Sgt. Reid McGrath said.
Starting this week, Englewood Police Department started routing certain calls into its department and 911 to Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners.
The nonprofit manages the state’s mental health hotline and will be responsible for fielding calls when the new 988 suicide prevention hotline launches this July. RMCP will be doubling its staff ahead of the launch.
“We realized that we would be able to actually reduce complete calls for service, get people immediate mental health treatment and often times a better outcome and better treatment for them by transferring calls to our partners with Rocky Mountian Crisis Partners,” McGrath said.
Calls that warrant a police presence include situations where someone has harmed themself or someone else or someone who presents a danger to the public.
The shift in who is taking the call is just one of many approaches EPD is taking to bolster mental and behavioral health responses.
Four years ago, Englewood started its co-responder program with trained professionals working 18 hours per week. The department now has two full-time clinicians and a homeless outreach coordinator that works on case management for people experiencing homelessness.
Co-responders are paired with Englewood law enforcement now, but this new partnership opens the door for sole clinician responses.
“This new program is going to change that and allow Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners to do the phone triaging as well as potentially send out a resource that’s available 24/7 called SAFY and SAFY responds with clinicians,” McGrath said. “We’re also developing a program similar to STAR, it’s going to be called Mobile Response Unit, and AllHealth Network, who’s our mental health provider in this area, actually has the program, is developing, we’re working with them we’re training their case manager.”
McGrath said the department hopes to roll out the Mobile Response Unit by August.
“We absolutely feel like it will give our officers more time to focus on what they need to do which is making a peaceful environment, addressing issues, responding to crime, crime trends and doing what their job really is,” McGrath said.