Dillon police to offer new voluntary gun storage program for individuals in mental health crisis | SummitDaily.com

Dillon police to offer new voluntary gun storage program for individuals in mental health crisis

A police vehicle parked outside the Dillon Police Station on Tuesday, Aug 27. The Dillon station is providing storage for gun owners going through a mental health crisis.
Liz Copan / ecopan@summitdaily.com

DILLON — The Dillon Police Department is one of 15 law enforcement agencies in the state taking part in a new firearm storage program meant to help reduce the rate of suicide among Colorado residents.

On Monday, Aug. 26, the Dillon Police Department officially kicked off a new program called the Colorado Gun Storage Map — the first online out-of-home firearm storage map in the country — in partnership with the Colorado School of Public Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus.

The new resource — developed in collaboration with the Colorado Firearm Safety Coalition as well as gun shop owners, firearms trainers and public health researches across the state — provides off-site storage facilities for gun owners going through a mental health crisis.

“It’s about offering a place where people can store their firearms when either they’re in a mental health crisis or possibly a family member or friend is having a crisis,” Dillon Police Department Chief Mark Heminghous said. “Easy access to firearms during mental health crises often leads to suicide. If we can offer even just that storage of firearms for a time when they can get through that period in their life, we’re more than happy to give people a little vacation away from their firearms.”

The map, available on the Colorado Firearms Safety Coalition website, shows a group of law enforcement agencies and gun shops around the state that offer out-of-home storage options for gun owners. There are 15 law enforcement agencies and 47 gun shops participating, and the Dillon Police Department represents the only storage site in Summit County.

Heminghous said anyone dealing with a crisis can call the Summit County 911 center’s non-emergent line at 970-668-8600 and ask that an officer call them back and come pick up their weapon for voluntary storage. Or people can contact the Dillon Police Department directly at 970-468-6078.

Heminghous emphasized that no one should bring a gun inside the police station or the Dillon Town Hall under any circumstances, and those who wish to bring their firearm to the police station directly should leave it outside in their car and allow officers to collect it. Of note, the department will accept firearms for anyone in need, and not only Dillon or Summit County residents.

Dillon’s service is free, though once an individual returns to collect their firearm, they will be asked to go through a background check to make sure they’re still legally able to possess the weapon.

24-hour crisis help

• Colorado Crisis Services: 844-493-8255 or text “talk” to 38255
• For life-threatening emergencies, call 911

“It’s just a very simple way for us as law enforcement to do our part in reducing suicide and the availability of firearms to commit suicide,” Heminghous said. “I’d certainly urge someone to go get some mental health help, and in bringing a firearm in, we’ll be more than happy to direct them toward that assistance, as well. Those things go hand in hand, talking to a mental health professional as well as taking some time away from firearms. It’s a two-pronged approach, and we’d like to see people take advantage on both sides.”

In 2017, Colorado had the 10th highest suicide rate in the country, and about half of the deaths were by firearms, according to the University of Colorado. When adolescents die by firearm suicide, more than 80% use a gun belonging to a family member. The free gun storage could be a valuable tool as officials around the state — including here in Summit County — seek better options in fighting suicide and other issues stemming from mental health crises.

“Suicide is a major public health problem in Colorado and when someone is at risk of suicide, the safest option is to store guns away from their home temporarily,” said Sara Brandspigel, assistant director for the program for injury prevention, and education and research at the Colorado School of Public Health. “Our goal with creating this resource is to improve community safety and prevent suicide by reducing the time it takes for people to find and reach out to local storage options, which is a challenging landscape to navigate.”

In addition to mental health concerns, the Colorado Gun Storage Map can also be used for a number of other temporary firearm storage reasons, including if gun owners are expecting visitors — particularly children — or are traveling out of state and want to secure their weapons while away.

The gun storage map can be found at ColoradoFirearmSafetyCoalition.org. Individuals in crisis can reach out at any time to be connected to a trained counselor at Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255, by texting “talk” to 38255 or by starting a chat on the service’s website at ColoradoCrisisServices.org.

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