New Co-Responder Programs Pairs Law Enforcement with Behavioral Health Professionals

North Forty News file photo.

The Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health has funded five new co-responder programs in Arvada, Boulder County, Summit County, Eagle County and Westminster that pair law enforcement with behavioral health specialists to conduct immediate behavioral health assessments when responding to mental health and substance use calls.

The new partnerships bring the statewide total to 26 programs, serving 23 counties and 57 communities with over 55 law enforcement agencies participating in co-responder programs statewide. The programs help to aid officers in de-escalating situations and providing those in crisis appropriate treatment and services.

“The co-responder model is a key way to improve safety for everyone—Coloradans experiencing distress, their communities and law enforcement agencies,” said Robert Werthwein, director of OBH.

Co-responder programs are effective in serving community members with intensive behavioral health needs. The office of Behavioral Health (OBH) reports that co-responder teams have responded to 10,491 calls with 98 percent not resulting in arrest from July 2019 through May 2020.

The OBH began its support of co-responder programs in 2014 and started to receive state funding through Senate Bills 17-207 and 19-008. Additionally, OBH-funded co-responder programs spent approximately $5 million in the 2019-2020 fiscal year. Funds from OBH for the program come from the state’s Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, General Fund and the federal Mental Health Block Grant.

“Not only are we now able to immediately connect individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis with services that can help them, we have lessened the burden on the criminal justice system and local hospital emergency departments,” said Rick D. Brandt, Chief of Police for Evans, Colorado.


For more information regarding the co-responder approach in places like Douglas and El Paso County, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XETy2hjRDXk#action=share and https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3127764770639827