Sen. Michael Bennet cites Summit County’s SMART program in new bill

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet introduced the Supporting Mental Assistance Responder Teams Community Policing Act on July 13 to provide dedicated funds for law enforcement to partner with mental health professionals, case managers and outreach teams. He cited the Summit County Sheriff’s Office Systemwide Mental Assessment Response Team, otherwise known as SMART, co-responder program as success story in his office’s news release.

Bennet’s office said his Community Policing Act draws on the success of Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response Program and Grand Junction’s Co-Responder Program, in addition to Summit County’s SMART team. Combined, his office said those programs responded to nearly 9,000 crisis calls that provided the appropriate service or resource to the person in crisis.

Community policing allows law enforcement to partner with local responders to prevent crime, connect at-risk individuals with resources and improve public safety, Bennet’s office said. Mobile crisis teams, co-responder units and case managers engage people experiencing crises related to mental health, poverty, homelessness or substance use disorders to deescalate challenging situations.

“Summit County has had a history of significant mental health issues impacting nearly everyone in our community in one way or another,” said Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons in the release. “That is why in January of 2020 we set up the SMART co-responder program. … The program delivers a continuum of care from crisis response through stabilization, with the ultimate goal of safe return to the community. … Having spoken with the Senator earlier this year as he was beginning to put what is now the Supporting Mental Assistance Responder Teams bill together, I am deeply impressed with how he has taken up the call and shown true leadership on this issue.”

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