The Pueblo Police Department and Health Solutions have partnered to release initial statistics from an alternative response model launched this fall.
From September to October, Pueblo police officers and members of the Solutions Outreach Services team had 109 clients. More than half of those clients received welfare checks, and 27 received assistance at the request of their agents. The rest were called in for reports of either trespassing, lewd behavior or “suicide risk.”
During the first month of the program, there were 121 SOS-related calls, 42% of which were handled by SOS team members. Over a two-month period, dispatchers received 143 calls for him, and Pueblo police officers responded to most of them.
In some cases, members of the SOS team responded to calls with the Pueblo Police Department’s designated investigative community coordination team, which handles low-level crimes.
Denver’s STAR program gives Pueblo a blueprint
The purpose of the program is to “contribute to community stability” and “free up police officers to focus on other public safety issues,” said Tee, Health Solutions vice president of professional services. Miller told the Chieftain.
The program also utilizes Denver’s support team, which “utilizes behavioral health physicians and paramedics to serve people experiencing mental health distress and substance use disorders,” according to the city’s website. They are also aiming to replicate the support program.
As of March 2023, Denver’s program responded to 8,000 calls, all of which would have gone to police officers if the program had not been active. More than 40% of those targeted by the program were referred to “formal mental health or substance use treatment,” and 38% were taken to “community resources.”
As of this fall, Denver’s STAR program has 16 paramedics, an equal number of clinicians, and eight surgical vans. It has been active for over 3 years.
City leaders and the Pueblo Police Department considered the possibility of bringing such a program to Pueblo earlier this year. Police Chief Chris Knoller expressed interest in the service in March, believing it would help officers divert their attention from other calls they need to respond to.
“Worth its weight in gold”
During Monday’s City Council work session, Knoller said that even though the program is still in its early stages, it will allow Pueblo city staff to shift their focus away from non-essential calls and that staff will always be able to deliver. will give customers access to unlimited behavioral health services, he told City Council members. .
Funds from the state’s Transformative Homeless Solutions Grant Program are paying for the SOS team, Miller said. This is a 3 year subsidy.
“This is bringing talent back in a big way,” Knoller said. “It’s literally worth its weight in gold.”
The SOS team is made up of clinicians, paramedics and experienced individuals. Some City Council members suggested Monday that Pueblo PD and Health Solutions may increase the program’s capacity based on early data.
“We have clearly demonstrated the need for this,” Knoller said Monday. “It would be ideal to add capacity.”
Miller said Health Solutions is trying to grow the program “responsibly” and needs more data to show the team can make the program sustainable in Pueblo.
Pueblo’s SOS team provides first aid, behavioral health interventions, and psychoeducational support. The team connects people with services and resources for ongoing care.
Psychoeducational support will be provided to “direct people to community resources” to reduce the likelihood of being contacted during future calls, Miller said.
Most people contacted during the first two months of the program were offered or directed to specific resources and services. Several people required emergency assistance, and nearly 10 received follow-up after the initial call.
Miller said SOS teams are responding to people throughout the city, but there are no areas where calls are concentrated yet. The team does not track who is home and who is not, but one of its goals is to “identify potential improvements to the situation, whether it’s homelessness or another issue. “Connecting people to certain resources.”
“It can happen to anyone,” Miller said.
Health Solutions and Pueblo Police have found that the highest number of calls are on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. According to the data, most of these calls came in between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mr Miller said the SOS team would be most available that day.
Knoller said the Crisis Intervention Team program, a joint response model between the Pueblo City Medical Association and Health Solutions in which clinicians ride alongside police officers to respond to calls, remains in effect.
Chieftain reporter Josue Perez can be reached at JHPerez@gannett.com. Follow @josuepwrites on X (formerly Twitter). Please support His News Locally and subscribe to His Chieftain of Pueblo at the following URL: subscribe.chieftain.com.