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El Paso and Pueblo Counties see financial boost for law enforcement

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Two southern Colorado Counties will soon see a big financial windfall for help with pairing their law enforcement services with the mental health needs of the community.

Every day, law enforcement uses special training and techniques to communicate with citizens who suffer from mental illness or have substance abuse issues.

"Those calls can drag out for several hours and we don't have the resources to allow a deputy to sit on a call for four or five hours to try to find a solution for them,"
 said John Hammond, Deputy for the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

Many times on calls, without a licensed therapist on scene with deputies, their hands are tied in seeking help for citizens.

"He hadn't made any suicidal statements, he doesn't have a past history of suicidal attempts or anything like that, so we had nothing really to go on to where we could do anything, I mean, believe me, we wanted to help this guy," said Travis Mundt, deputy with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

A new $5.2 million dollar state grant was handed out by the Office of Behavioral Health to 12 Colorado communities.

El Paso County will get up to $360,0000 dollars for a co-responder program that will put therapists in the cars with deputies to respond to those high resource intensive calls.

"They'll go in with the call with us, they'll be in there, they'll be talking, they'll be interacting, and they'll be providing their aspect of the mental health and the deputy will be there to provide safety and take any legal action if there needs to be legal action," said Hammond.

In Pueblo County, law enforcement there will receive $575,000 for the LEAD program, which will allow law enforcement to re-route those with low level drug and prostitution offenses to other services, instead of to the already overcrowded jail.

The goal of the grants are to give resources to those who need it, relieving pressure on an already heavily burdened system.

El Paso County hopes to have their program up and running by the middle of 2018.

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