Colo. mental health officials now responding to 911 calls

Six mental health professionals now provide help that officers cannot, and often refer people to outpatient treatment

By EMS1 Staff

DENVER — Mental health 911 calls are now treated differently in Denver, with professionals accompanying police officers to point patients toward the treatment they need.

KDVR reported that six mental health professionals respond to 911 calls with police officers to provide assistance in incidents that police officers often do not know how to handle.

The professionals referred more than 300 patients to outpatient treatment after responding to 1,200 calls last year, with less than three percent of the calls resulting in an arrest.

"I think sometimes when someone is in crisis there can be a jarring moment attached with an officer that's in uniform, and then you have us, the 'touchy-feely' social workers that show up in a polo and are getting down on their knees saying, 'What is it we can help you with right now?'" Chris Richardson, the program manager of the Crisis Intervention Response Unit, said.

The Colorado Department of Human Services plans to devote $16 million over the next three years to battling the mental health crisis, and Denver police hope to add 14 more clinicians by this summer.

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