ER visits drop, Colorado Springs Fire Department credits new focus on mental health

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COLORADO SPRINGS — The Colorado Springs Fire Department is working to address mental health needs on a larger scale. 

“We found very quickly is that there are a lot more calls coming in through CSPD and the 911 dispatch system that we were able to get out and address those needs,” said Lt. Andrew Cooper, with the Community Public Health Division for the Colorado Springs Fire Department.

The department is adding a fourth group to its Community Resource Team, a grant-funded program, by early October.

It’s a collaborative effort between CSFD, the Colorado Springs Police Department, and mental health provider, Aspen Pointe.

“The clinician is obviously able to provide the mental health evaluation, and the paramedic is able to provide field clearance so we can take that person from the scene or field and take them directly to a behavioral health hospital,” Cooper said. 

CRT’s primary focus is to address suicide calls from the state crisis line, Aspen Pointe, and the 911 dispatch system, along with any other behavioral needs. 

“What we were doing before was 98-percent of all the calls that we ran on, on the fire department that had a behavioral health crisis involved in it, they were going to the hospital. And currently, now 65-percent of all those calls that the CRT team is able to run on, we’re able to keep those people in their own homes. So, we’re seeing a dramatic decrease in ER usage around mental health and getting these people to the proper resources at the proper time, which is really our goal,” Cooper said. 

CSFD’s Homeless Outreach Program is also expanding.

“We just hired a behavioral health clinician and a paramedic that will be going out five days a week doing outreach, addressing and trying to fill the needs of the homeless population in the downtown area,” Cooper said. 

The police department already runs a Homeless Outreach Team looking out for safety and welfare.

The fire department’s program is focusing its approach a bit differently.

“Ours is much more of a social aspect program, where we’re there to actually address the physical and behavioral health needs of those in individuals, to see if we can get them off the street over a long term,” Cooper said. 

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