GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT)-- The Colorado Department of Human Services announced Wednesday that $5.2 million will be given to communities to help support behavioral health and law enforcement partnerships.
For the next 5 years, the Grand Junction Police Department is getting about $360,000 a year from a marijuana tax cash fund to implement what's being called a co-responder program.
"It will allow us to reduce our expense and our time commitment,” said Interim Grand Junction Chief of Police Mike Nordine.
Emergency calls will be diverted to a specially trained team who can deal with mental health calls.
"They will respond to the scene and try to work with the individual right then and there,” said Mind Spring Executive Vice President Michelle Hoy.
"It's a top priority, it is a drain on resources across the valley. There are very few avenues to deal with the problem, it’s something that we end up dealing with on the street,” said Nordine.
A psychiatrist will go with an officer on a mental health or substance abuse call to help diffuse the situation. This means they will not have to transfer the person to another facility, which saves them time and money.
"We are looking forward to some relief in our jail for jails spaces as we have a lot of mental health cases going to jail,” said Nordine.
The aim is to route individuals with low-level offenses to case managers and services other than the criminal justice system.
"Forty percent of those calls we would be able to deal with on scene,” said Nordine.
From 2016 to 2017, there were more than 2,500 potential mental health and behavioral health 911 calls in Grand Junction.
The program will go into effect in Grand Junction over the next five months and is expected to last for at least five years.
"It keeps the other cops on the streets doing the work that they need to be doing,” said Hoy.
The Montrose Police Department already operates a co-responder program. They'll be using their funds to expand their program.
Contracts and costs need to be finalized, but officials hope to have therapists working with cops in the next few months.