Mobile crisis response call for mental health on the rise in Steamboat
The Mobile Crisis Response partnership between Steamboat Springs Police Department and local provider Mind Springs Health is now in its second year and is proving increasingly valuable and well-utilized. Both organizations said.
The program includes 86 crisis responses through 2021, and officers called Mind Springs mental health personnel when circumstances warranted. By the end of July this year, the program had taken him 62 times, said Steamboat’s Springs Police Chief Sherry Burlingame.
“So many phone calls we make have some kind of mental health relevance,” Burlingame said. In my opinion, they (Mind Springs) can triple or quadruple their staff and take advantage of that.”
Mind Springs has responded to assist police an average of seven times a month in 2021, nine times a month so far in 2022.
Gina Toothaker, Local Program Director at Mind Springs, said:
“We have a great relationship with Mind Springs. They do an incredible job when they come out and respond to us,” said Burlingame. Ultimately, we need more clinicians, we need more resources.”
Twosaker agreed that members of the community involved in law enforcement often have mental health and substance use issues.
“We are happy that they (police officers) are using this program more. Our crisis clinicians love these phones. I like it,” Toothaker said. It avoids the old situation of taking you to the room.”
In the past, people at risk who weren’t helped early by mental health providers “were already shaken or upset because of law enforcement,” Toothaker said, now ‘s mobile support “helps people regain stability more quickly.”
Mind Springs currently has two master-level clinicians assigned to Mobile Crisis Response and one Crisis Responder working half a month at a time. Crisis responders also answer other cell phones in schools, prisons, clinics, homes, and the new 988 statewide Crisis Hotline throughout Routt County.
Tousaker said hiring new crisis management staff is limited by both the cost of living in Yampa Valley and a nationwide shortage of mental health workers. Still, with the program’s success, Toothaker hopes to secure funding and find staff to create his program, a true correspondent, by fall 2023.
“Sheri and I hope that this program will be expanded into a true ‘co-responder’ model with PD-based clinicians at Mindsprings,” said Toothaker. “Then a mental health provider is right there and can assess the situation from the beginning and de-escalate.”
Expansion to a true correspondent model could also include offering paired services through the Root County Sheriff’s Office in the future, Toothaker said. Although we do not have contractual agreements with offices, we do answer a variety of calls, especially in Hayden and southern Loot County, when requested by the state crisis line.
Both Burlingame and Twosaker say community members and business owners can call 911 if they believe someone is in danger of harming themselves or others.
Before responders arrive, Burlingame advises: Ask questions, but don’t try to offend them. Give them choices and choices they can make, such as “stay here or leave.” let them have a voice. “
However, we don’t recommend calling 911 if someone with possible mental health issues isn’t exhibiting behavior that could harm someone.
The police chief said most of the department’s existing officers have completed 40 hours of crisis intervention training and new officers will be deployed for training in the spring of 2023.
Twosaker says one way community members can help with mental health in the Valley and learn when they need to call 911 in a mental health situation is by attending or scheduling a half-day mental health first aid class. She said hundreds of people have been trained in hospitals, colleges, schools, and some service organizations. Interested organizations and individuals can call Mind Springs , you can learn about class schedules and how to participate.
To contact Suzie Romig, call 970-871-4205 or email [email protected].