Log In

Reset Password

Montezuma County approves community intervention program

Montezuma County has approved a new Community Intervention Program department to assist people facing mental health and noncriminal crisis situations. (Journal file)
Pilot program would respond to mental health, substance abuse and non-criminal crisis situations

The Montezuma County Board of County Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve a new Community Intervention Program Department, which will assist people suffering from a noncriminal emergency situations.

The pilot program will dispatch an EMT and a trained mental health care worker to certain 911 situations in the county when a person is in a crisis and needs assistance.

Local law enforcement and emergency responders in Montezuma County are more frequently responding to the human troubles of public intoxication, mental illness, suicide threats, homelessness, drug overdoses and family disputes.

The crisis calls take away time needed by law enforcement and fire departments to respond to crimes and fires.

“We are looking at different ways to respond to general crises occurring in the community every day,” said Haley Saunders, director of public relations for Axis Health System and a member of an intervention program steering committee. “It is a shift toward changing the way police are involved in certain calls.”

The EMT and social work clinician would address, mitigate and deescalate immediate problems, she said, then connect the person to social service and health resources to try and improve their situation.

The proactive approach also is seen as away to potentially prevent crimes, Saunders said, to avoid a “person having a bad day from being led away in handcuffs.”

The program will operate under the county but the main office will be based at Station 3 of the Cortez Fire Protection District.

The first year of the program is estimated to cost approximately $408,000, Powers said, and would be shared between the county and the three towns based on population. Funding would come from the American Recovery Program Act funds awarded to the county and towns, and grants.

According to preliminary funding, for the first year the county would pay $292,000, Cortez would pay $177,000, Mancos would pay 32,000 and Dolores $18,500, according to preliminary figures.

Funding beyond the first years would come front state and federal grants that are available for such programs, Saunders said.

Operations would include two EMTs and two social worker clinicians. A vehicle also would be provided for the program. The plan is to begin offering the service early next year.

The county will contract out for the department head, EMTs and clinicians, and provide program oversight

“The purpose is to respond to people in need and reduce the burden of noncriminal calls overloading our police and fire departments,” Powers said. “It is a pilot program; if successful, it will continue.”

The county commissioners voted 2-1 to approve the program after years of consideration and multiple meetings in the past six months.

Commissioners Jim Candelaria and Joel Stevenson voted in favor, and commissioner Kent Lindsay voted against it.