FCPS reorganizes to create new unit dedicated to mental health response
Fort Collins Police Chief Jeff Swoboda has approved an internally-initiated reorganization that further prioritizes the agency’s focus on mental health. A new Mental Health Response Team (MHRT) has been formed to create a stronger continuity of care for community members experiencing crisis.
In this enhanced model, two existing FCPS officer positions were shifted to create the MHRT unit. The officers, who applied and were selected in a highly competitive process, began partnering in January with the UCHealth CORE (Community Outreach, Response and Engagement) Team in January. The CORE Team includes Community Paramedic Julie Bower and Co-Responder/Community Programs Coordinator Stephanie Booco.
The Mental Health Response Team is designed to
- Increase on-scene safety for all involved parties
- Route community members 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 people are able to access appropriate care
- Create a culture of police-mental health collaboration with a focus on community need and partnerships
“Mental health issues are often complex, and resolving them requires a partnership approach,” said Booco. “Simply sending a social worker to address these issues isn’t the answer. The unfortunate reality is that people in crisis can exhibit behaviors that put themselves and others at risk. Having a multi-disciplinary team of compassionate professionals allows us to safely help people access the resources they need.”
MHRT Officer Chris Bland has been a police officer for 8 years. He began his career with Douglas County Sheriff’s Office in 2013 and joined 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.
MHRT 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 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.
This team is an expansion of the existing FCPS mental health co-response program developed by FCPS police psychologist Dr. Dan Dworkin that started in 2018. Licensed professional therapist 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. 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.
How to Reach the MHRT
When community members call police for help related to a mental health situation, they can request the Mental Health Response Team. If a team member is not available, a patrol officer will respond to assist. All FCPS officers receive ongoing training for mental health response, and 31% of officers are CIT certified. The responding officer will send a referral to the MHRT if requested. Depending on the person’s needs, one of the MHRT officers, co-responder clinician, or community paramedic will follow up at a later time.
“This is a significant investment in our community that aligns with agency’s philosophy of de-escalation,” said Special Operations Lieutenant Dan Murphy. “Healthy communities are safe communities, and FCPS will continue innovating to support the long-term wellbeing of the people we serve.”
For more information about the Fort Collins Police Mental Health Response Team, visit https://www.fcgov.com/police/mental-health