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Pueblo Police Department receives state funded grant to boost mental health services

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- A state-funded grant has just been issued to the Pueblo Police Department to help boost mental health services for the force.

The Colorado Department of Local Affairs awarded the city of Pueblo with the $99,464 grant. Last week Pueblo City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to accept the funding.

Police experience traumatic events on the job on a daily basis. But with ongoing staffing shortages and increased calls for service, it's becoming harder and harder to be in law enforcement. Highlighting the importance of the availability of access to mental health services and resources.

"Police officers are human beings and there's times where situations they're dealing with in their normal life affects their work product," Pueblo Police Department Sergeant Frank Ortega said. "Obviously when you come to work as a police officer, you have to be focused and dialed in on the job that you're doing because it could get you or someone else hurt if you're not on the top of your game. Part of that is, the things you're dealing with, the things you're seeing, the traumatic events you're experiencing, at some point it wears on you."

As of May 8, the department had 47 vacancies. Meanwhile, calls for service are continuing to trend upward. 

According to the Pueblo Police Department, summertime is the busiest time of year for them. Adding that the timing of this grant coming through is much needed.

The grant will cover the costs of mental health counseling provided by the city. It will also reimburse officers who plan on paying out-of-pocket for a counselor outside of the department.

Sergeant Ortega says they currently have a part-time psychologist available to the officers as well as peer support and other mental health services. But this grant will help further extend the hours and availability to increase the support programs.

"Back in the day you were supposed to be a tough police officer and deal with it," Ortega said. "Unfortunately, not in our department but nationwide, officers have committed suicide because of the things they've seen and pressures they've felt being a police officer. In our department, we haven't had that and I'd like to think that part of that is because of the support networks we have."

Their hope for the future is to become a model for other departments on what to do and how to help its officers be better equipped to deal with the on-the-job trauma.

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Natasha Lynn


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