(MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo.) — Beginning on March 1, 2023, the Manitou Springs Police Department (MSPD) will partner with UCHealth to form a new unit that will respond to 911 calls with behavioral health as a primary factor.

According to UCHealth, the unit will be called Manitou Crisis Response 1 (MCR-1), which will include a police officer who has undergone mental health-related training and a licensed behavioral health clinician from UCHealth Memorial Hospital.

“The goal and purpose of the unit is to divert contacted individuals from jail and the emergency room when a behavioral health issue arises,” wrote UCHealth.

MCR-1 will be composed of MSPD Officer Jeff Schuelke and Holly Bradbury, a UCHealth clinician.

“The fact of the matter is, oftentimes, police officers are not the best people to respond to situations in which a licensed behavioral health clinician can use their expertise and training to better handle the situation,” said Bill Otto, Chief of Police for MSPD. “This new unit is simply the best way to address any behavioral health-related calls.”

Officer Schuelke has been with MSPD for more than three years and Bradbury is a licensed professional counselor (LPW), according to UCHealth.

“Co-Response is a great collaborative approach to behavioral health crises,” said Andrea Wood, Behavioral Health Manager at UCHealth Memorial Hospital. “The pairing of an officer and a clinician can help de-escalate situations, and many times the team is able to refer clients to the services that will best benefit them. Our hope is to meet patients where they are and support them with their next steps to improved behavioral health or sobriety.”

MSPD responded to more than 760 behavioral health-related calls in 2022.