Pueblo Police Department seeing success with CIT Counselors

PUEBLO, Colo. (KKTV) - The Pueblo Police Department is seeing success having counselors with Health Solutions ride with police officers in order to address mental health issues and people who are threatening suicide.

Officer Ben Muniz is paired up with a Crisis Intervention Team counselor at times when he is on duty.

"With teen suicide and teen self-harm going on in the community that is a good resource in the community. Especially talking to not only the teens but their parents and getting through that emotional barriers," Muniz said.

The police department says the CIT provides officers with new strategies and tools for identifying and de-escalating crisis calls.

"So what we do is we help them by providing resources. We sit and talk to them or we take them to a place where they can have a further evaluation," CIT Clinician Jennifer Martinez told 11 News reporter Adam Uhernik.

The program was the idea of Chief Luis Velez when he proposed a partnership with Health Solutions to provide behavioral health support to the police department.

According to statistics from Health Solutions, from Feb. 13 to June 30 of the this year, they had 327 encounters, with only 3 percent of them being incarcerated

The goal is to reduce call time for behavioral health concerns so officers return to the street. Since starting, average call times have reduced from 58 minutes to about 40 minutes, saving 98 hours from start in February to the end of June.

"With an embedded therapist with the patrol officers, we are able to go and answer immediate calls for service within the community ... it's a very busy day for that patrol officer and CIT person because we are going to every corner of the city to assist those calls and other people and those officers," Muniz said.

Health Solutions says another goal of the program is to help people experiencing behavioral health crisis get to the services they need.

Thirty-three percent of the individuals encountered were linking to outpatient treatment services, 27 percent were taken to the ER for evaluation, 19 percent were taken to Health Solutions Crisis Services for evaluation, and 12 percent were taken to Health Solutions Crisis Living Room, which is a non-clinical, calm and safe environment for adults experiencing behavioral, emotional and psychiatric crisis to receiving caring intervention, support and mentoring from a peer specialist in a home-like living room environment.

"I feel like we are making a big dent in helping in the community and making sure they are getting connected to resources they may not otherwise been aware of," Martinez said.

Due to increased funding from the state for these programs, Health Solutions and the Pueblo Police Department are excited to continue to expand this program by adding a new clinician on nights working 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., who just started the police academy on Sept. 18, and a new CIT case manager who is already working with individuals in the community who need further outreach and assistance.