Taking on mental health emergency calls amid the pandemic in Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs, Colorado (KKTV) – The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on many people. Those who work at 911 call centers say they feel and hear it.

While many of the calls are related to crime, mental and behavioral health calls are also coming in, and employees say they seem to be receiving more of them. Working in a 911 call center can be a challenging task. So the Colorado Springs Police Department makes mental health a priority for its employees.

“We want to break the stigma that mental health is just as important as physical health,” the sergeant said. Frederick.

Among the resources available, employees can get free work-related treatment paid for through grants.

“Having these options to speak to a professional or peer support, they are very valuable and are kind of changing the way we engage with our employees in a positive way,” said Eric Johnson, Public Safety Communications Supervisor for the Colorado Springs Police.

This way employees can be at their best to help those in emergency crisis. Employees handle many different calls, so training in how to handle different situations is important.

“We learn how to deal with that which is related to the crisis. How to deal with what they are trying to tell us, using active listening skills. What resources are available to us,” said Dana Hickman, Communications Center Training Coordinator for the Colorado Springs Police Department.

Especially when it comes to mental and behavioral health calls.

“We’re learning that there are some other issues that we have to learn to deal with as a police department, as a 911 operator. And there are emergencies that don’t just deal with crime. We need to help our community deal with some of the mental crises we’re going through,” Hickman said.

The Police Department has four Community Response Teams that respond to mental health calls. They are made up of an officer, a paramedic, and a licensed professional therapist.

“It seems that more and more people are not coping well with all the things that are going on in the world. And so they turn to the police for help. Obviously, this is not our profession, but we have these teams to help people,” the sergeant said. Frederick.

In the past year alone, the call center received more than 9,500 calls related solely to suicide and social care screenings.

Police say a lot of people are calling 911 because they know nothing about the Colorado Crisis and Support Line. If you or someone you know needs help, you should call 1-844-493-TALK (8255). Mental health professionals are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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