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Law enforcement officers are often the de facto emergency response for mental health crises despite having little to no mental health training. With nearly 20% of U.S. adults reporting experiencing a mental illness and recent police reform movements bringing attention to alternative policing practices and policies, there is arguably a need for comprehensive mental health treatment and emergency response in the U.S. (Mental Health America, n.d.). The cities of Greeley and Evans, Colorado have implemented a mental health co-responder program that involves individual mental health clinicians and a mental health ambulance, Squad 1, responding alongside police on mental health calls for service. The current study explored the effectiveness of this co-responder program in diverting mental health calls for service away from the criminal justice system and emergency rooms and into the mental health care system. 3,443 mental health calls for service for the year 2021 were analyzed from the Greeley and Evans police departments and North Range Behavioral Health. While both co-responders and police were more likely to divert calls than not, mental health co-responders were slightly more likely to divert calls and were much more likely to avoid criminal justice involvement and arrest than police. Co-responders, however, had higher hospitalization rates than police. Both co-responder models saw great success, though Squad 1 had better outcomes than individual clinicians in terms of diversion and avoiding criminal justice involvement. These findings point to this program being a promising intervention for diverting mental health calls away from the criminal justice system.


Mental health; police; mental health co-responder; co-responder; police reform; program evaluation; mental health care; law enforcement