GJPD Co-Responder Program
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Experts will tell you the face of crime is changing, and law enforcement needs help from people trained in behavioral health.
The problem even headlined on the Tuesday U.S. Senate debate, with both candidates calling for an increased number of counselors and therapists on 911 calls.
Grand Junction Police Department’s Co- Responder Unit aims to address behavioral health challenges in our community.
“There’s kind of a behavioral health crisis nationally and then, of course, locally as well,” said Brandi Black, licensed professional counselor.
The unit consists of a patrol officer and a mental health professional. Black says having both entities working together can help de-escalate situations and link people with the appropriate services.
“So having that behavioral health perspective, teamed up with law enforcement, really kind of expands the knowledge base, the skills that we have when we’re interacting with people. So, it’s really a win-win situation for both law enforcement and the community.”
The four-person unit stayed busy in 2021; it responded to over 1,000 calls. Michelle Czajkowski is one of the officers. “We probably easily, I would say, we can have anywhere from just a few to 10 or so,” said Czajkowski. “That could be calls through dispatch or some that we’re following up on; we’ll get referrals.”
On the scene, the officer and counselor try to de-escalate the situation, talk to those involved, and give the person resources. The duo will average about 45 minutes per call.
“And so we want to make sure that the families have that support, and so we’ll check in with them if they’re affected by that and other ways,” said Black.
A community where experts say crime can be fueled by mental health, social issues, and addiction.
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