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Relieving an Overburdened System: Mental Health and Law Enforcement in Eagle County

Eagle County law enforcement officials are often faced with responding to mental and behavioral health challenges as they interact with people on some of their worst days and in some of their lowest moments.

How those interactions play out at each step of someone’s journey within the criminal justice system depends on many factors — available resources, response models and diversion programs, but also a person’s race, socioeconomic status, and access to mental health care.

Eagle County voters overwhelmingly approved a 2017 ballot initiative dedicating funds generated by a 5% tax on recreational marijuana sales to address a local behavioral health crisis as high rates of suicide and insufficient resources collided.

Since the fund began doling out dollars in 2018, $300,000 was given to the Hope Center of the Eagle River Valley for the creation of a “co-response crisis intervention team.” Another $427,349 was used for a contract with Mind Springs Health to provide clinical services and “intensive community-based transition services” to inmates in the Eagle County jail, according to data provided by Vail Health.

These figures are taken out of a total of more than $2.7 million in funds allocated to date. Vail Health also made a $60 million commitment to create Eagle Valley Behavioral Health and launch a new, collaborative approach to improving mental health in the valley.

Since this boom, the criminal justice system has implemented a co-response model for 911 calls, strengthened diversion programs in the courts, offered up new mental health services for Eagle County inmates and, overall, increased training and collaboration across agencies.

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