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In Eagle County, Pairing Mental Health Clinicians With Police Has Helped Callers in Crisis

Pairing Mental Health Clinicians With Police Has Helped Callers In Crisis

From 2021 to 2023, Your Hope Center clinicians responded in person with police or paramedics 448 times and 946 times on their own, according to the center’s records. Your Hope Center works with community paramedics to treat people in their home environments whenever possible and make sure they have a plan to receive continued care, said Alice Harvey, a community health manager with Eagle County Paramedic Services.

This is particularly important for people with acute mental health issues who, without co-response, often cycle in and out of emergency rooms and become trapped in a “vicious cycle” of medical debt, inadequate treatment and homelessness, said Pollinger, the 911 dispatcher who formerly worked as an EMT.

When clinicians respond to calls alongside police or paramedics in Eagle County, 80% of people in crisis are supported with a safety plan and mental health care within the community, according to data from Eagle County Paramedic Services. People in crisis that receive a traditional response from police and paramedics are more likely to be jailed or transported to the emergency department, which can be expensive — especially for the uninsured.

To better meet the needs of the community, Your Hope Center has increased its capacity to staff two crisis clinicians who work in 24-hour shifts — one on-duty and one on-call. However, the organization does not have any bilingual crisis clinicians who speak Spanish and, instead, relies on the use of phone-in interpretation services. Your Hope Center Executive Director Carrie Benway said clinicians and staff would like to add bilingual, bicultural clinicians to the crisis team but have struggled to recruit someone with that combination of skill sets.

Your Hope Center is largely supported by state funding that flows through Vail Health Behavioral Health.

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