Mental Health Response Team#
Program Vision: We believe healthy communities are safe communities, that mental illness is not a crime, and that jails/hospitals should not be seen as the best ways to access appropriate care leading to long-term wellness.
Program Mission: To provide professional, compassionate, and comprehensive services through police/mental health collaboration through on-scene assessment and follow up aligned with the agency's de-escalation philosophy.
Program Goals: Increase on-scene safety for all involved parties. Route citizens to the most appropriate level of care. Avoid unnecessary referrals to hospital emergency rooms. Reduce incarceration related to crimes secondary to mental illness. Provide follow up care coordination to ensure citizens are able to access appropriate care. Create a culture of police-mental health collaboration with a focus on community need and collaboration.
Need help now?
If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency, please call 911. If you think it would be beneficial to have a mental health professional assess and connect the person with services, tell the dispatcher that you’d like to request the Mental Health Response Team (MHRT).
If a team member is not available, a patrol officer will respond to assist. All Fort Collins officers receive training related to mental health response. If you'd like follow up from the MHRT, just let the responding officer know and a member of the team will contact you at a later time.
Use this flow chart to answer a few basic questions and determine the best local resource for your situation.
Mental Health Co-Responder Program History#
FCPS assists an increasing number of community members with behavioral health conditions, as well as their families who are concerned about them, on a daily basis. The Mental Health Co-Responder Program was created with the goals of 1) helping families and individuals in crisis access appropriate community services, and 2) increasing the safety of those individuals and officers who encounter them.
This program is an integral part of the agency's overall philosophy of de-escalation, or in other words, aligned with the philosophy of connecting with and helping community members without the use of force as often as possible.
Program Phase 1
Fort Collins Police Services began working to develop a co-responder program in 2015, and the program officially launched in July of 2018. Licensed professional counselor and addiction counselor Stephanie Booco was initially hired to serve as a full-time co-responder clinician. This position was jointly funded through FCPS, UCHealth, and SummitStone Health Partners.
Program Phase 2
In 2019, UCHealth Community Paramedic Julie Bower joined the program and Booco’s position fully transitioned to UCHealth in order to help facilitate the regional expansion of law enforcement co-response partnerships.
Program Phase 3
In 2020, FCPS approved the formation of a full-time Mental Health Response Team. In January 2021, two officers began working with the clinician and community paramedic to enhance mental health services to our community members and expand partnerships with local service providers.
Mental health has long been a topic of discussion, but it only recently became a focal topic of broader social interest. There are often questions about resources and why we do what we do. Below is some background on how we got to our present model.
Legislation was passed to deinstitutionalize psychiatric facilities, or in other words, the government wanted to find a way to better meet the needs of individuals with a mental health condition that allowed them to remain in the community. This piece of legislation, coupled with the Community Mental Health Construction Act of 1963, created significant changes in where and how people accessed mental health services, as well as what services were available. In effect, it closed inpatient facilities and encouraged states to open community mental health centers (CMHC) – treatment agencies where people with a mental health condition could go for medication and treatment while living in the community as opposed to residing in an inpatient facility. Additional court cases (see Lake v. Cameron, DC Court of Appeals, 1966) supported the idea of community mental health and treatment in what we refer to in the clinical field as the “least restrictive treatment setting” possible.
In the 70s and 80s we saw court cases and legislation such as the 1975 US Supreme Court ruling in O’Connor v. Donaldson that changed the way we look at mental health holds and involuntary treatment. In this case, the courts ruled that a person must be a danger to self or others in order to be “constitutionally confined,” or otherwise known as being placed on a mental health hold and further assessed until stabilized. Years later, we see the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act pass that terminated federal government funding for mental health hospitals and required a medical illness for admittance to facilities. This required states to return to funding non-nursing homes for the long-term care of people in the community with severe and persistent mental illness (SPMI), which resulted in the segregation of this group into large, underfunded facilities. These facilities were often for-profit and privately owned, creating incentive for reduced costs to increase profits.
Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C. (1999) ruled that mental illness is a disability and covered under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). This required all government agencies to move people with mental illness into community-based treatment settings again to decrease/avoid institutionalization.
With these legislative changes and landmark court cases, the actual practice of mental health care has experienced myriad expected and unexpected consequences. A reliance on insurance to cover treatment has increased, individuals with SPMI and more often living in the community and accessing resources at local healthcare centers which has proven excellent for social connection and health for most, but there is still a subset of this group that needs more support. These individuals are in contact with public safety partners, such as police, fire, or emergency medical services. When in contact, they are at different points of understanding the condition they are diagnosed with and motivation to address it in a way that is aligned with their best interests.
To this end, public safety personnel, especially officers, are interacting with these individuals more often and thus one of the unintended consequences is an over reliance on public safety to provide the same level and quality of mental health assessments, treatment, and triage that a highly trained mental health professional would provide. We are beginning to see the other side of the system slowly catch up to the circumstances created by years of well-intentioned change that led to disproportionate rates of homelessness, incarceration, and compounded medical and mental health care problems for individuals in this group.
In 2013, Senate bill 17-207 was passed. It was intended to end the use of the criminal justice system as a “holding space” for individuals with a mental illness. The legislation declared a behavioral health crisis to be a healthcare issue, not a police or criminal issue, and led to the creation of a “coordinated behavioral health crisis response system.” Governor Hickenlooper followed this up in 2016 with the Colorado Community Paramedic Bill, which allows community paramedics to practice emergency medical procedures during calls for service.
Enter co-response and mobile integrated healthcare. Some areas had already recognized a need for these programs back in the 1980s/1990s and started putting these programs in place. Los Angeles Police Department and the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, Oregon are two examples of this. Today, there are national training sites for co-response (a mental health provider and officer working together) and mobile integrated healthcare (MIH) programs (a multidisciplinary team that responds to both in-progress calls for service and provides intensive follow up).
Please call 9-1-1 if you or someone you know is in danger of self-harm or hurting others. This checklist will help you prepare and know what to expect when you call for help in a mental health crisis situation.
Navigating a Mental Health Crisis
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) created this guide to help people experiencing a mental health emergency.
Larimer Resource Guide
If you or a loved one is having a mental health crisis, resources are available here in Larimer County. Click to view a list of local services.
Community Paramedic Program#
The Community Paramedic Partnership began in February 2019 between UCHealth and Fort Collins Police Services in response to the emerging need in the community for joint medical and mental health services. A community paramedic, co-responder, and officer plan visits to residents' homes who would like assistance with medical and mental health needs. Services range from assessing for fall risks and medication reconciliation to mental health safety planning and case management services. Referrals to this program are made by FCPS officers who identify a need for this service when interacting with community members on scene. After the individual provides approval, the team reaches out to schedule a visit.
Interagency Treatment Group#
The Interagency Treatment Group is a monthly forum of 25 community agencies; medical, mental health, social service, criminal justice and law enforcement, designed to assist Fort Collins Police Services in its efforts to intervene safely and effectively with individuals who exhibit mental illness and addictive behaviors.
Law enforcement, fire, mental health, medical, justice system, and community social service agencies interact with many of the same individuals with mental illness or dual diagnosis issues on a regular basis. The best use of limited community resources requires effective coordination of services. The Mental Health Co-Responder attends this meeting to facilitate coordination of intervention efforts.
The program’s mission is to bring together agencies that share clients with law enforcement in order to effectively coordinate services between agencies, provide the most effective interventions, reduce recidivism, enhance the safety of all service providers, and provide education and emotional support for agency representatives.
Mental Health Response Team Staff#
Officer Annie Hill, CAC
MHRT Officer | email@example.com
Officer Annie Hill has been a Fort Collins police officer for 12 years and has served in several assignments, including as a Neighborhood Engagement Team officer and as a Crimes Against Persons detective. Annie is CIT certified and holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology. She is also a certified addiction counselor and registered psychotherapist, and she has professional experience working in residential treatment as well as counseling court-ordered clients.
Officer Chris Bland
MHRT Officer | firstname.lastname@example.org
Officer Chris Bland has been a police officer for 8 years. He began his career with Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in 2013 and FCPS in 2019. Chris has bachelor’s degrees in sociology/criminal justice and political science, extensive experience working with individuals in crisis, and is a certified Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT) instructor. CIT is a nationally recognized model designed to help people with mental and/or substance use disorders access medical treatment rather than place them in the criminal justice system. Through collaborative community partnerships and intensive training, CIT improves communication, identifies mental health resources for those in crisis and ensures officer and community safety.
Julie Bower, NRP, CP-C
UCHealth Community Paramedic | email@example.com
Julie Bower is a nationally registered paramedic and certified community paramedic. She has served in the EMS field for over 25 years, working for UCHealth in this community for the last 16 years. She frequently assists Community Corrections clients with substance use and mental health disorders navigate the healthcare system. Many in this population use an ambulance to go to the emergency room, which incurs high costs and only provides acute care. Julie helps people access primary care resources to better manage health issues over time. She often works with homeless and underserved populations in Northern Colorado and serves in a social work and preventative care capacities to help patients access care. She has worked extensively with the local health care organizations to assist with COVID in-home testing, administering flu vaccines to at-risk populations, and serving as a liaison between patients and care teams to help people get the resources they need for long-term success.
Stephanie Booco, LPC, LAC
UCHealth Community Programs Coordinator | firstname.lastname@example.org
Stephanie holds a degree in counseling with a specialization in forensic psychology and is a licensed professional counselor (LPC) and licensed addiction counselor (LAC). Her specialties include substance use, trauma, and clinical work with first responders and military personnel. She has worked in the field of forensic counseling for the last seven years and joined the FCPS Co-Responder Program in July 2018. As a co-responder in the Community Paramedic Program, Stephanie provides on-scene triage and follow up services. When she is not co-responding with officers, she is connecting with community partners and educating the community about the Co-Response program through FCPS. Stephanie assists with the programmatic development of the Co-Responder Program, as well as other Community Behavioral Health services offered by FCPS, such as the Mental Health Minute and Community Paramedic Partnership.
Dan Dworkin, Ph.D.
FCPS Police Psychologist - Coordinator
(970) 567-1174 | email@example.com
Dr. Dan Dworkin has been the police psychologist with Fort Collins for the past 19 years. He offers confidential counseling to all staff and their families, provides crisis intervention services, coordinates the department’s peer support team, trains all new officers and dispatchers, and provides ongoing training for staff. He created and chairs the community Interagency group, created the mental health co-responder program, and he is a Crisis Intervention Training instructor for police officers. All of these programs are designed to help police officers work effectively and safety with those in a mental health crisis. Dr. Dworkin also authored department Policy 417 entitled, “Responding to Persons Affected by Mental Health Disorders” which provides guidelines for officer response.
Lt. Dan Murphy
FCPS Special Operations Division
(970) 416-2660 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lieutenant Dan Murphy has been a police officer since 1984 and a supervisor since 1996. He has been assigned to supervisory positions in Patrol Operations, a County Drug Task Force, and the Criminal Impact/Fugitive Unit. He was assigned to SWAT Operations as the SWAT Sergeant full-time for 10.5 years. He has been the SWAT Commander since 2016, has been a SWAT Team Leader since 1995, and has been a SWAT officer since 1991. His lieutenant assignments have included the Professional Standards Unit, Patrol Watch Commander, and most recently, the Special Operations Commander of the SWAT team, the K-9 Unit, Bomb Team liaison and the Supervisor of the Co-Responder Mental Health Team. Lt. Murphy believes in and supports an agency-wide philosophy of de-escalation and solid tactical decision-making that saves lives.
Assistant Chief John Feyen
FCPS Special Operations Division Chief
(970) 221-6555 | email@example.com
Assistant Chief John Feyen is a 33-year veteran of public safety who came to FCPS in 2019. He spent two years managing the Patrol Division and in 2021 shifted to lead the Special Operations Division. Prior to joining FCPS, he spent 18 years serving with the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office in variety of capacities in the patrol and investigations divisions, as well as functioning as the Interim Chief for the Town of Berthoud. Prior to his career in law enforcement, Assistant Chief Feyen spent 13 years as a paramedic in Kansas City, Missouri and Loveland, Colorado. During this time, he also cross-trained as a structural firefighter and volunteered on the dive rescue team. A native of Iowa, Feyen holds a bachelor’s degree from CSU-Global in Leadership and Organizational Development and is a graduate of Northwestern University’s School of Police Staff and Command.