In January of this year, the City of Grand Junction was selected as one of eight recipients of a Colorado Department of Human Services grant to fund a Crisis Support Team. The CST, also referred to as a co-responder team, is a worldwide initiative intended to connect people in crisis with mental health or substance abuse services, in an effort to reduce the cycle of recidivism.
The program officially kicked off on July 1st, and there are currently two co-responder teams in the Grand Valley; one from the Grand Junction Police Department, and one from the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office. Each team is comprised of a law enforcement officer and a mental health specialist from Mind Springs who is trained to intervene on calls for service where a mental health issue may be a factor.
“The co-responder model gives us an opportunity for a unique response for people who may be experiencing a mental health crisis,” say Officer Kristine Gregory, the co-responder team officer with the Grand Junction Police Department. “Visiting a person in the field paints a more vibrant picture of what is really going on in the person’s life. Are they taking care of themselves, their house, their animals? Is there a health code concern that also needs to be addressed? Are there indications that the person is self-medicating? Those details may be lost if the person walks into a hospital or is transported to the ER.”
According to the Mesa County Community Health Needs Assessment for 2018-2020, the suicide rate in Mesa County is nearly double the national average. The co-responder team can work to get to the root of the crisis, and the combined response of law enforcement with mental health services helps streamline the resources available to someone in crisis sooner than later. This not only provides critical services to the consumer, but also has the potential to reduce non-criminal calls to 911.
“We are very fortunate to provide a service to our residents such as this, and these initiatives are rare across the country, mostly due to staffing and lack of budgetary backing. This program is proactive in nature, which allows us to get to the core of the issue as opposed to simply responding repeatedly in a reactive manner,” said Chief Doug Shoemaker of the Grand Junction Police Department. “We do not yet know the full impact of this initiative, but the commitment to progressive police services by our agency and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office speaks to the cooperative nature of law enforcement within the Western Slope.”
The City of Grand Junction received $362,500 for this grant cycle, which is runs from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019. The grant covers salaries and benefits of all staff on the team, including the employees from Mind Springs. Some of the funds also cover costs associated with vehicles for the teams. The teams work alternating shifts, and operate out of an office at the Grand Junction Police Department. The co-responder teams collaborate closely with the City of Grand Junction, Mesa County, Mind Springs, local hospitals, Salvation Army, Aerial Services, and other frontline service providers.