COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- The Colorado Springs Fire Department is looking to expand its program that responds to 911 calls involving suicide threats or mental health concerns.
Consisting of a fire department paramedic, a Colorado Springs Police officer, and a clinician from AspenPointe, the Community Response Teams answer mental and behavioral health-related 911 emergency calls.
Lt. Drew Cooper with CSFD said, “Our goal isn’t long term treatment. This is acute care for acute crises that pop up. We want to get people the right care and get them to the right place.”
Currently, the city averages 400 calls for service to 911 per month related to suicide. And right now, the three teams can only handle about 100 of those calls.
“With the three teams, they are constantly busy from the time they come on until the time they go home. With the fourth team, we hope to expand some services,” said Lt. Cooper.
The coronavirus pandemic has actually decreased the volume of calls, but there's still a need to expand the program.
Cooper said, “The pandemic, with the isolation that is happening right now, is increasing anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation and things of that nature. Although we are not going to as many calls, we are spending a lot more time with particular individuals.”
Back in June, the three current teams responded to nearly 200 calls. Because of the community response teams, 65% of people were able to be treated right on-site, which is one of the many positive’s these teams are able to bring to the table.
“Previously, 98% of those individuals were going to the emergency room. Obviously the emergency room is fantastic for emergencies but they are not really well equipped for a mental health crisis. Sometimes patients would lay there for eight hours without getting the proper evaluation,” said Lt. Cooper.
Working 10 hours a day and seven days a week, a fourth unit would allow the program to expand to that and add another weekend shift. CSFD hopes to add the new team by October.
On top of adding a new Community Response Team, the fire department has also launched a new homeless outreach program. Through this program, they try to figure out why people are homeless and help bring change to their life.