DILLON, Colorado (CBS4) – A program in Summit County aimed at responding to those in the midst of mental crisis has caught the attention of state leaders. Earlier this month, Governor Jared Polis traveled to Dillon to speak with community leaders about what makes the Summit County model so successful.
“First and foremost, we’re building it up from the community, not the law enforcement down, which is really important,” said Jaime FitzSimons, Summit County sheriff.
The SMART program, or System-wide Mental Assessment Response, was launched in Summit County just last year, and FitzSimons said it was an idea put forward by the community and tailored to the needs of the Summit County community. That is what makes it unique, but also what makes it work.
“There’s a lot of community support with this team. The other thing is that it’s a plainclothes answer, which means they don’t show up in uniform. They show up as a team and they show up in plain clothes, an unmarked car, and they go to all the cities here in the Summit County jurisdictions, so it’s a nationwide response, ”he said.
The response always includes a deputy paired with a clinician. This is the co-response part of the program, but it goes beyond that initial contact.
“You have a third component in your team, the case manager, so I always describe it as a deputy and clinician in times of crisis. You have the focus in the moment of crisis and stabilization – and stabilize this person in the community. At the back end is the case manager who comes now and provides the all-round service for further stabilization, ”said FitzSimons.
Over the past 10 months, the joint response has saved hundreds of people from landing in the emergency room, saved the emergency room from overflowing, and saved the county money. FitzSimons and his team estimate that for every person they can help avoid a trip to the emergency room, the county will save about $ 15,000.
“This year it was just over $ 2 million for the first 10 months of this year. It’s a huge number, but more importantly, how many people we’ve stabilized rather than sending people to higher levels of care or destroying our emergency room. We have stabilized an incredible number of people, what we say ‘on the spot’, be it at home, wherever that place is, but not going to a higher level of care, that has crushed the community. “
FitzSimons believes any ward can accept the program and make it successful, but what works in Summit County will likely be different for Denver. In Summit County, the start-up cost of the program is around $ 425,000, and while it was a successful program, funding has been one of the biggest hurdles.