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Aurora to contract with UCHealth to provide clinicians for Crisis Response Team

The co-responder program has had zero full-time clinicians for more than a month. Now Aurora is changing how the program operates.

AURORA, Colo. — The City of Aurora says it will now work with UCHealth to hire new employees for its Crisis Response Team, which currently has zero full-time clinicians. 

The program is supposed to send a police officer and a mental health clinician to certain 911 calls. We don’t know how many calls came into Aurora 911 over the last month and a half that involved mental health crises, but we do know there were no full-time clinicians working to respond.

For years, the city has partnered with Aurora Mental Health Center to provide clinicians for the co-responder program. That will end now after an audit published by the city found a long list of problems with the way the program was run.

"If we don’t have clinicians, we’re not running a co-responder program," said Jason Batchelor, Aurora Deputy City Manager, during a city council committee meeting Thursday. "We're running a Crisis Intervention Team [CIT]. While CIT-trained officers are a valuable resource, we really want that co-responder model fully staffed."

Batchelor told city councilmembers Aurora will now work with UCHealth to find clinicians. He hopes higher pay will make it easier to hire.  

"We’ve had difficulties getting fully staffed on the clinician side over the years," Batchelor said. "As we know, it’s a very tough market."

The audit found that Aurora “lacks formal procedures for handling calls for persons in crisis,” Aurora 911 “does not have protocols to determine whether a mental health crisis is occurring,” and the Crisis Response Team “lacks policies and procedures for its operations.” 

Ultimately, the audit recommended the city change the way it finds clinicians.  

From Oct. 10: Aurora City Council moves to fund crisis response team using city funds, secure more staff

Program manager Courtney Tassin told councilmembers pay was so low they couldn’t retain staff. Now Aurora will work to hire clinicians immediately, before its old contract even expires, citing the immediate need.

"We’re in the final stages of contracting with UCHealth. We’re hoping to be under contract by November," Tassin said. "We’ve gotten the go-ahead to look into alternatives or options to hiring clinicians in the meantime."

Just how many calls is the crisis response team not responding to because of a lack of staff? The audit found in one random week, more than 115 calls involved a person in crisis which the team could have responded to.

We don’t know exactly how many mental health calls come into Aurora every week, because, the audit also found, the city doesn’t keep track of that. 

The city notes the program manager is a trained clinician and has been responding to calls when she can since there are no full-time clinicians. 9NEWS is told that’s about one day a week.

From Oct. 6: Aurora Crisis Response Team could be without full-time mental health clinician for months


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