Pitkin County is responding to mental health needs in our community with the launch of Pitkin Area Co-responder Teams (PACT). The PACT program pairs mental health professionals with local police officers and deputies, to respond to calls for service where mental health or chemical dependency issues appear to be a factor.
“Our goal is to increase access to mental health and social services for community members in need, and to prevent unnecessary trips to the jail or the emergency room,” said PACT Program Manager, Jessica Beaulieu.
The co-responder model of criminal justice diversion is being implemented in over a dozen counties and jurisdictions across the state, and essentially consists of two-person teams comprised of a law enforcement officer and a behavioral health specialist. Together, they intervene on mental health-related police calls to help de-escalate situations that may have historically resulted in arrest or hospitalization.
“Local law enforcement responds to many calls in which an individual may be having a mental health crisis and would be better served by counseling or some other sort of mental health intervention,” said Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo. “We’ve needed a program like this since I got into law enforcement over three decades ago. When my deputies work side-by-side with a mental health professional it will assure that the individual is offered more choices, perhaps treatment, instead of jail,” DiSalvo said.
Pitkin County Public Health is teaming up with Mind Springs Health to provide experienced behavioral health staff for the PACT program. Mind Springs is allocating a clinician with expertise in crisis response who will be partnering with patrol officers and providing on-scene mobile response, intervention, evaluation, and disposition or referral for individuals with behavioral health disorders or symptoms.
“Having a mental health clinician on scene helps us make a better determination of what some of the root causes might be for some of the behaviors we are seeing,” said Aspen Police Human Resources Officer, Andy Atkinson. “Then we can work towards getting people the actual help that they need instead of just running them through the system over and over again.”
The PACT program also provides follow-up and care coordination through a full-time case manager and a peer specialist.
“What’s so exciting about the case management and peer support components of PACT, is that we have a much better chance of preventing future law enforcement contacts or charges if we can engage people over time, and connect them to resources to support their well-being and stability,” said Director of Mind Springs in Aspen, Lindsay May.
Funding for Pitkin County’s PACT program comes from a 5-year grant of up to $362,500 per year from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, which was awarded in 2018 by the Colorado State Office of Behavioral Health.
Jessica Beaulieu - Co Responder Program Manager - 970-429-6175