The Colorado State University Police Department launched a new mental health co-responder program to better tailor its services to a wide array of crises.
Under the new Community Support Program, a UCHealth behavior health expert — a co-responder — will be sent along with a CSUPD officer on certain calls in order to de-escalate the situation more effectively and ensure the subject of the call receives the best plan of care.
“Co-responders assist with ensuring people know what resources are available and can access them,” said Stephanie Booco, co-responder program supervisor with UCHealth. “To this extent, we speak with the people we interact with on calls to get a sense of what, if any, needs they have and if they are open to us helping them connect to resources that can address their needs.”
Co-responders act as a bridge to resources and supports.” -Stephanie Booco, co-responder program supervisor
The program is modeled after a similar program created by Fort Collins Police Services in July 2018, which has seen immense support from community members, according to Booco.
“These types of programs are something the community is recognizing a need for and supporting in a major way,” Booco wrote in an email to The Collegian.
According to SOURCE, the program will launch later in the fall semester following the hiring of a “behavioral health provider,” who will work with a team of officers.
“Once the clinician is hired, they will complete their initial training and then be paired with a CSU police officer,” said Wendy Rich-Goldschmidt, interim executive director of campus safety and security. “We are hoping to have this team begin to provide services to the CSU community later this semester.”
Booco said a mental health clinician will ride along with a CSUPD officer to be on the scene for calls that are deemed to warrant a mental health response.
The process CSUPD will use to determine which calls require a co-responder will be refined throughout the pilot year, Rich-Goldschmidt said.
“It is often difficult to know which calls will actually need a co-responder resource, so the decision making and ‘self-assigning’ may be very organic and fluid,” Rich-Goldschmidt said.
In the wake of the George Floyd protests over the last year, increased calls for police reform have been the norm. Legislation such as Senate bill 17-207 and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 have given way to programs such as those created by CSUPD and FCPS.
According to CSUPD, the Community Support Program aims to better address mental health situations that would typically be taken care of via the criminal justice system or the emergency room. The intention is to connect those in a crisis with the resources they need to receive proper care.
“In addition to resource education and provision, we also provide crisis intervention and de-escalation services as well as care coordination and follow-up with those we contact to ensure their needs have been addressed to the best of our ability and to see if they need any additional support,” Booco said. “Co-responders act as a bridge to resources and supports.”
Once a behavioral health professional is hired, the Community Support Program will be able to be accessed by dialing 911 and alerting the operator that you or another individual are experiencing a “mental wellness concern,” according to CSUPD. The CSUPD website notes that all officers receive training on how to handle a mental health crisis.
Mental health resources for students and staff can be accessed through CSU Mental Health and Counseling Services, and the Red Folder provides resources for CSU employees to aid someone who may be struggling. CSUPD can be reached for non-emergencies at 970-491-6425.
Natalie Weiland can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @natgweiland.