Many Colorado counties have no mental health team to respond to 911 crisis calls even though the state offers funding

In Clear Creek County, where a deputy shot and killed a man having a mental health emergency, there is no co-responder program

Olivia Prentzel and Jennifer Brown
The Colorado Sun

COLORADO — More than half of Colorado counties lack a “co-responder” program in which a mental health professional joins law enforcement on police calls, including Clear Creek County where local officers shot and killed a 22-year-old man as he sat in his car. 

The death of Christian Glass in the small mountain town of Silver Plume, about 45 miles west of Denver, is once again raising questions about law enforcement response to 911 calls involving someone who is having a mental health crisis. Glass’ parents and their attorney revealed details of the man’s June 11 death last week. 

The Clear Creek County Sheriff’s office said Glass became “argumentative and uncooperative” and tried to stab an officer. But video from the arrest shows that Glass, who made a heart with his hands toward the officers and said he was terrified, never even got out of his vehicle. The officers busted out the window, shot him six times with bean bag rounds, multiple times with a Taser and then shot him five times, according to the family’s attorney.

Co-responder programs are meant to de-escalate encounters with police and reduce the number of people who need mental health treatment but are instead sent to jail. Colorado has ramped up efforts in the past few years and provided state funding to local law enforcement agencies and mental health centers to expand programs across the state. Yet wide swaths of rural and mountain communities still do not have co-responder teams. 

Since 2017, the state Behavioral Health Administration has offered funding to communities to start the programs, which also require local financial contributions. Today, 24 out of the state’s 64 counties have a co-responder program funded through the administration. Summit County is one of those.


Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.