“If it looks like a mental health call, they call us,” says Kimberly Collins.
Collins oversees North Range Behavioral Health Crisis Services, which includes the new Co-Responder program. The “us” is North Range’s Co-Responders, clinicians who accompany the “they”—law enforcement in Evans and Greeley, plus firefighters and EMTs. Co-Responders assist with individuals who are in an emotional, behavioral, or substance use crisis. They also work with them to get followup care, often providing bus passes and gift cards as incentives for people to attend appointments.
Last October, Evans Police Chief Rick Brandt learned of a $2.8 million, 5-year grant to fund Co-Responders. He and Collins invited Greeley to participate, then over a two-week period, wrote and submitted the request. Brandt and Collins learned in late November 2017 that they were one of eight cities to win the grant. In all, between 10 and 13 agencies are involved in the local program.
Between April and June, the Evans-Greeley-North Range team purchased equipment and branded clothing, nailed down leases, and trained. Greeley Fire Department also developed a mobile app with an intra-agency release that will be used by many community agencies, including the co-responding team, for coordinating care.
When the program is fully operational later this year, North Range masters-level clinicians—equipped with ballistic vests, radios, phones, and laptops—will be fully embedded with first responders and are trained on law enforcement’s safety protocols. To be safe, the Co-Responders will set up one or two blocks away from the scene of any crisis.
Co-responding not only saves officer time, it reduces emergency room visits, getting people the right level of care when they need it. Collins says, “Co-Responders change the story completely.”
Co-Responding saves lives and dollars. Evans Police Chief Brandt says, “The partnership we have developed with North Range has proven invaluable in many ways. In at least one case I believe the intervention prevented a suicide. The officers in the field find value in having a Co-Responder available because it gives them options in handling behavioral-health related calls and frees them up much more quickly than in the past.”