AURORA | Aurora has announced the hire of six new clinicians and two care coordinators to staff its 911-dispatched behavioral health care programs through a new partnership with UCHealth.
Aurora operates two programs that send out mental health clinicians to divert those experiencing mental health problems from emergency rooms and jail — the Aurora Mobile Response Team, which dispatches clinicians to calls that don’t require a police presence, and the Crisis Response Team, which pairs clinicians with crisis-trained police officers, including in situations involving suicidal and homicidal threats.
“Historically, mental health has been underfunded nationwide. And this problem has trickled down to police departments who aren’t always trained to respond to these things,” said Jennifer Fierberg, a clinical supervisor for UCHealth.
“That’s why this team exists, to be another tool in the tool belt for officers that will hopefully keep people out of prison or jail if we can get them to a crisis center or a detox facility that can better serve them instead.”
Aurora’s City Council included ongoing funding for the programs in the city’s 2023 budget, and UCHealth has been providing clinicians for the programs since January after the health care system was chosen through a competitive bidding process, Aurora’s Director of Housing and Community Services Jessica Prosser said.
Previously, the CRT was grant-funded, and the AMRT operated as a pilot program.
“These programs are really beneficial for the community,” Prosser said. “And having alternative options for folks, when they’re in crisis is really important to sort of meet them where they are.”
The Crisis Response Team found itself in a crisis of its own last fall, when it became inactive due to a lack of clinicians. City staffers at the time blamed the staffing problems on low pay, and an audit by the city identified several problems with how the program was run under the city’s then-partnership with Aurora Mental Health & Recovery.
Under the city’s new agreement with UCHealth, the health care system is providing clinicians and care coordinators to staff the AMRT and CRT programs. Prosser said the clinicians will be deployed “interchangeably” between the two programs. UCHealth operates additional co-responder programs in Fort Collins, Manitou Springs, Fountain and El Paso County.
The AMRT has doubled in size since its 2021 debut, according to a news release. The team is trained to de-escalate situations involving mental health, depression, homelessness, poverty and substance abuse where a police officer may not be needed. They are not dispatched to incidents that involve violence, criminal acts or life-threatening medical situations
Team members are able to provide first aid, mental health assessment, food, water, clothing, hygiene products and referrals for other local resources. Prosser said Aurora Mental Health & Recovery is among the organizations that members of the public may be referred to.
The AMRT responded to nearly 500 calls in 2022 compared to more than 1,000 calls answered by the CRT, which was established in 2018. Unlike the AMRT, the CRT is a co-response program, and its purview specifically includes situations where a member of the public is making threats or is experiencing psychosis.
Interim police chief Art Acevedo called the programs “an invaluable resource” in a news release. Fierberg said clinicians working in the Crisis Response Team are in constant demand and have little down time during their busy 10-hour shifts.
“I would say that we are back to back throughout our entire shifts,” she said. “It would be rare that we would have a couple hours to kind of sit and not take any calls.”
Speaking from her own experience working on Aurora’s Crisis Response Team, Fierberg said the team rarely has to contact the same person twice, which she took as a positive sign that people contacted once by the team were in a better place after being connected with resources through Aurora Mental Health & Recovery or other service providers.
A case manager also follows up with every client within two days of their contact with the team to see how they’re doing and whether they need additional help, Fierberg said.
The AMRT operates daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the CRT operates from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Members of the public may request an AMRT or CRT response either by calling 911 or by calling the city’s non-emergency dispatch line at 303-627-3100.
AMRT operates 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, and CRT operates 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
You better not have a situation after 10 PM!
And the call to the 911 operator is to filter and to know what will fit. OK…
Aw Geez: In 1947, on graduation trip, we contracted with Eddie Preston, who owned all School Buses, in Harrison County, Ohio. School offcials (Principal and Coach drove the bus, and with wives and handled money, and hotels). On that trip to Cleveland, Niagra Falls, we visited Insane Asylum in upper New York area, and we had Mental Facilities in most states, for what is now coming into play again.
———-Due to what Hitler had done, Mental Asylums went out of style, but that visit, I realized why one farm family, 2 miles from my family residence, had son in 40s, with problems. Father-Mother went to court, and declared his problems, and he would go away for about 6 months. Return to farm work, and have problems, and he would be gone for another period.
—— Now we are going back to what worked in1930s, 1940s, tack on fancy medial names, and have much more expensive problems, since we have so many, and now illegal drugs and alcohol, now legal and sold within public, and wonder why diseases we had licked or eliminated, are now back and treated? Open borders while we do not build fences, or high,solid walls around our schools, make them open range to the disorderly, for gun ranges.—
——- AND OHIO WAS DEMOCRAT in my youth, leading me to reenlist and serve 26 years in Air Force. Though a job was open, and after 90 days to get civilized, expected me to manage a company store in Indiana, arranged in my birth state Ohio.
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