Behavioral Health Co-Responder Program Launches With Boulder Police Department
The city’s Housing and Human Services Department (HHS) and the Boulder Police Department (BPD) have partnered to provide an expanded resource to support people experiencing behavioral health crisis situations in the city. Behavioral health includes mental health and substance use disorders.
The Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT) co-responder program will pair behavioral health clinicians with police officers responding to incidents where a person’s mental health and behavior are a concern. This approach will improve outcomes of police interactions by providing the appropriate behavioral health expertise to intervene during a crisis and connect people with needed treatment and other community services.
“Police officers are generally the first to respond to concerning situations in the community because they are the first people we call for help,” said Wendy Schwartz, Human Services Policy Manager. “This program is a way to provide a comprehensive response to calls that involve people struggling with behavioral health.”
The new program pairs four licensed clinicians from HHS with responding officers from the Boulder Police Department. Co-responder clinicians are deployed based on incoming calls to dispatch and officer referrals. At the scene of a behavioral health crisis, co-responder clinicians work with officers to support the individual experiencing the crisis, as well as family members or others who may be present. Clinicians follow up with these individuals to check on their health and safety and see if they need further assistance connecting with community supports. Co-responder staff also educate police officers about behavioral health issues so they are better equipped to handle situations where clinicians are not present. The program will operate from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.
“This partnership is critical to the services we provide to our community, which is one of the reasons we wanted to bring it in-house and make it even more a part of our city team. It is considered one of the best practices in policing, and the city will evaluate the outcomes of the interventions as it evolves,” Chief Maris Herold said. “This team approach helps everyone involved, from allowing police officers to focus on whether a crime has been committed to making sure an individual in crisis receives the appropriate care.”
The city previously had a contract with Mental Health Partners for similar services called the Early Diversion Get Engaged (EDGE) program. Hiring full-time city staff is the next step in expanding this service for the community with more hours of service and enhanced partnership with HHS and BPD.
Previously collected data from the EDGE program demonstrated that between January 2018 and Dec. 2019, a total of 829 individuals received program services. People served ranged from ages 9 to 94, with approximately 23% of calls involving a mention of suicide and just under 5% mentioning substance use or intoxication. The remaining contacts involved a variety of other reported behavioral health concerns.
Community members can learn more during the chief’s next virtual town hall, during which she will focus on answering questions on these topics with the team’s new supervisor, Lucy Larbalestier. Submit questions and register for the meeting at bouldercolorado.gov/police/police-chief-virtual-meetings
Community members should also be aware that they can always contact crisis help via the Colorado Crisis Support line at 844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255. 24/7 crisis services are also available at the Walk-In Crisis Center & Addiction Services at 3180 Airport Rd, Boulder, CO.
Zach McGee, Media Relations, 303-868-6810
Wendy Schwartz, Housing and Human Services, 303-519-5420
Published Feb. 22, 2021