FOUNTAIN — Law enforcement receives around 300 to 450 behavioral health crisis calls a month. Fountain’s new Behavioral Health Connect Unit or BHCON 4 is here to help.

If you are in distress in El Paso County and the emergency is determined to be a behavioral health issue, BHCON 4 will dedicate the extra time required to handle these specific medical emergencies.

“Because sometimes that little bit of extra time can go a lot further,” said Officer Christopher Diriwachter of the Fountain Police Department.

BHCON 4 pairs a Fountain Police Officer with a licensed clinician from UCHealth to better respond to behavioral health emergencies.

“I just find the passion to try to help folks,” Officer Diriwachter says, “To show them that we’re really there to help them, not necessarily arrest them.”

The goal is to divert clients from jail and the emergency room, when a behavioral health issue is a primary factor.

“My job is to try to calm them down enough to be able to send [the clinician] in,” Officer Diriwachter explains.

How it works:

  • Fountain Police Department (FPD) Officer contacts party first
  • De-escalate and develop initial report
  • Secure scene
  • File charges/make arrest OR radio for clinician to join officer on scene
  • UCHealth Clinician joins FPD Officer
  • Contacts party and any relevant 3rd party
  • Conducts behavioral health assessment/CSSRS Determines Disposition
  • Provides Resources to party and 3rd parties
  • Transports to Emergency Room, direct admit to mental health facility, detox, WIC
  • Makes referral to case manager for follow up
  • Review individual file, 911 call and jail history
  • Contacts client, completes Needs Assessment
  • Researches available resources that meet need
  • Contacts client and shares resources gets approval for direct referrals
  • Makes referrals, follow up until connected to resource

BHCON allows officers to return to normal patrol functions while the BHCON unit can connect those in crisis with services right that second.

Once the situation is de-escalated, a clinician will begin the assessment.

“We try to avoid involuntary hospitalization, ” said Priscilla Pfeifer, UCHealth Behavioral Health Clinician. “If I can provide them with resources in the community and connect them to those resources through our BHCON case manager faster, than I will go ahead and do that.”

BHCON 4 will be partnered with BHCON 3 already in Fountain, with the existing team in El Paso County.

“We have a BHCON team working every day of the week and if it’s something that we see that our community needs more, then I’m sure our city council will be more than happy to approve additional teams as the community needs it,” Lisa Schneider, the Public Safety Officer for the City of Fountain says.

BHCON Co-Responder Team, June 2022 report

In June of 2022, the BHCON Co-Responder team received 341 mental health related 9-1-1 calls.

Since 2018, when the BHCON program began in El Paso County, law enforcement said it has not only seen an increase in successful responses, but a better relationship between the community and the police.