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Taking on mental health emergency calls amid the pandemic in Colorado Springs

Mental health calls amid the pandemic
Published: Dec. 5, 2021 at 10:46 PM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) -The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many people. Those who work in 911 communication centers say they are feeling and hearing it.

While many calls are crime related, mental and behavioral health calls are also coming in, and employees say it seems like they are getting more of them. Working in a 911 communication center can be a difficult job. So the Colorado Springs Police department is making mental health a priority for their employees.

“We want to break the stigma that mental health is just as important as physical health,” said Sgt. Frederic.

Among the resources offered, employees can receive free work-related therapy paid for by grants.

“Having those options out there to talk to a professional or peer support, they are very valuable and it’s kind of changing the way we deal with our employees in a positive way,” said Eric Johnson, Colorado Springs Police Department Public Safety Communications Supervisor.

That way employees can be at their best to help those in an emergency crisis. Employees deal with so many different calls, so training on how to handle different situations is important.

“We learn to deal with that crisis caller. How to deal with what they’re trying to tell us, using that active listening skills. What resources we have available to us,” said Dana Heckman, Colorado Springs Police Department Communications Center Training Coordinator.

Especially when it comes to mental and behavioral health calls.

“We are learning that there are some other issues that as a police department, as a 911 operator that we need to learn to deal with. And there are emergencies that don’t just deal with crime. We need to help our community deal with some mental crisis that we’ve been going through,” said Heckman.

The police department has four community response teams that respond to mental health calls. They’re  made up of an officer, paramedic and licensed professional therapist.

“It seems to be that more people are not coping as well with all the stuff that’s going on in the world. And so they are turning to the police for help. Obviously that’s not our profession, but we do have these teams to help people,” said Sgt. Frederic.

Last year alone, the communications center received over 9,500 calls just related to suicide and welfare checks.

Police say a lot of people call 911 because they don’t know about the Colorado Crisis and Support line. If you or someone you know needs help, you should call 1-844-493-TALK (8255). There are mental health professionals available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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