Not every person with a mental health issue who gets reported to police is engaged in criminal activity.
Yet police are often called to respond to incidents where a person may need crisis assistance but not necessarily criminal justice intervention. That takes up limited police resources and emergency services and doesn’t get the person the sustained help they need, often leading that person back to where he or she started.
A partnership between SummitStone Health Partners and the Loveland Police Department aims to change that. The two-year-old program has worked so well, police say, that now SummitStone is working on developing a similar partnership with other Northern Colorado agencies.
In a six-month period between March and August of this year, four days a week, behavioral health specialist Jesse Boyd logged 90 hours of in-person evaluations, 75 phone evaluations and support, 81 information referrals, 100 follow-ups, 187 consults, and 671 contacts or provided services.
Loveland police officers often call on Boyd when they find a person who is need of crisis intervention, either with mental health or substance abuse issues. Oftentimes, that means helping a person who is having suicidal thoughts.
SummitStone CEO Michael Allen said the goal of the co-responder model, where a behavioral health specialist will either respond during a crisis or follow up, is to de-escalate situations that have historically resulted in arrests.
It also helps “put people in a more appropriate space” and take the person in need to the agency’s crisis unit or provide home support, rather than sending a person to the emergency room or jail.
“Frankly, that’s a more cost-effective approach,” Allen said.
Boyd works out of the Loveland Police Department’s offices.
SummitStone now has an agreement with Fort Collins Police Services to do the same, beginning in October. SummitStone, Fort Collins police and UCHealth will share the cost for the full-time behavioral health specialist.
Summitstone Health Partners clinician Jesse Boyd heads out of his workspace, located right alongside Loveland Police officers, at the Loveland Police Department. (Photo: Timothy Hurst/The Coloradoan)
The ultimate goal, Allen said, is not necessarily to have behavioral health specialists divided by agency, but to have a pool of therapists available to help any agency in need, whether it’s Fort Collins police, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office or even emergency medical services.
With the new full-time specialist at Fort Collins Police Services, Allen said SummitStone is hoping to better track data such as emergency room diversion, jail diversion and reduction in use of force.