Westminster city council unanimously approved $318,000 from the State of Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health Co-Responder services program grant on Dec. 21. “We’ve …
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Westminster city council unanimously approved $318,000 from the State of Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Behavioral Health Co-Responder services program grant on Dec. 21.
“We’ve seen tremendous usage of this program,” acting Deputy Chief Edna Hendershot said.
The program handles more than 130 calls and referrals a month, Hendershot said, and they are looking to expand the program. Currently, only two co-responders and a supervisor are on the grant and Hendershot said she would like to add a third co-responder and a case manager.
“We certainly could use them much more than we are able to with the amount of time that they can spend,” Hendershot said.
The program is designed to help the police department address mental health issues, according to a press release from the city.
“While officers on the Westminster police force are exceptionally well trained, they are not as well equipped as a mental health professional to deal with the highly specialized needs of someone in crisis,” the press release said. “The goal of the Mental Health Co-Responder Program is to prevent individuals in crisis from unnecessarily going to the hospital for a mental health evaluation or to jail and into the criminal justice system as a result of escalating behavior which may be compounded by their crisis.”
Mayor Pro Tem David DeMott told a story of his daughter experiencing a mental health crisis and ending up cuffed in the back of a police car.
“It’s a matter of resources that we provide to you all because someone in a mental health crisis does need to be safe as well as the people around them,” he said. “This is part of the rethinking of how we deal with those kinds of things, not just as a city but as a society, so I’m excited to see this continuing to go on.”
“I think mental health and this co-responder program should be one of our highest priorities to expand,” Councilor Ezeadi said.
The program is funded through the grant, and Ezeadi said he hopes to see the program in the next budget.
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