Pitkin County’s effort to improve the response to mental health and substance use cases just got a boost from the Colorado Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health. The County will receive up to $362,500 per year from the State’s Marijuana Tax Cash Fund and Senate Bill 12-207 to operate a so-called “Co Responder” program locally, potentially bringing in over $1.8 million into the community over the next five years of the grant. The Co-Responder model of criminal justice diversion was developed in Los Angeles and San Diego. It partners law enforcement officers with behavioral health specialists to intervene in mental health-related calls. These two-person teams work to de-escalate situations by diverting individuals in crisis to immediate behavioral health assessments instead of arrest.
“A very dedicated group of professionals, the Pitkin County Mental Health Strategic Funders and Pitkin County law enforcement teams, collaborated to design this grant proposal. We are elated that our project was selected and are excited to begin planning and implementing this critical program which will enhance access to holistic treatment and care for individuals who need it,” said Karen Koenemann, Pitkin County Public Health Director, and PCLEMHC Project Director.
The Pitkin County Law Enforcement and Mental Health Co-Responder Program (PCLEMHC), will provide trained police officers and mental health clinicians to respond jointly to calls in Pitkin County for non-violent individuals and/or high system utilizers who may be experiencing a mental health crisis, and divert these individuals from the criminal justice system by ensuring their safety, rapidly evaluating their mental health status, and connecting them with appropriate mental health treatment and resources.
"Law enforcement in our community will greatly benefit from this program. Diverting cases like these away from the criminal justice system makes sense and we look forward to working closely with local behavioral health specialists," said City of Aspen Assistant Police Chief, Linda Consuegra.
In addition to Pitkin County, grants were also awarded to the Cities of Grand Junction and Alamosa and nine other mostly Front Range communities.
Contact: Karen Koenemann, 970-429-6171
Contact: Linda Consuegra, 970-920-5400