Co-Response Program: Things to Know When Implementing a New One

Trying to implement co-response/co-responder program in your community can be challenging. However, it will also be a beneficial tool for police officers, mental health professionals, and communities. The purpose of a co-response program is for law enforcement and other mental health professionals to work together to ensure the safety of everyone involved in crisis management.

What Is a Co-Response Program?

All co-responder programs vary. In general, they involve law enforcement and mental health clinicians working together to respond to emergency calls to help people in crisis. Co-responder programs offer police officers better alternatives than just arresting people.

These programs allow the police to work with mental health professionals in assisting people in crisis. So they can receive the help they need, rather than just being brought to jail where little to no help is offered.

Some Important Things to Know

While co-response programs can be highly beneficial, they can also be challenging to implement. It often takes some trial and error to figure out the best model. The following is a list of some of the difficulties you should know about implementing these programs.

Grants Can Be Difficult to Get

Implementing a co-response program includes the need for funding. Raising money is critical to success, and most importantly, applying for and receiving grants must be accomplished. For people not used to grant research or grant writing, it can be daunting. In addition, it can be challenging to find sources of money, so submitting multiple proposals until you receive funding is vital.

There is money available. It is just a matter of locating it. At present, there is a tremendous amount of money being allocated to law enforcement/behavioural health programs—both at the federal and state level. In addition, co-response programs are often funded by local communities through federal government grants. Find the right person in your community who can spearhead this effort.

It is essential to identify where you can find the financial assistance that you need. If you are turned down for a grant, apply for another. There is a lot of competition from many other groups and programs for the limited funds that are available. If you need help, an excellent resource for guiding you through the process is Assel Grant Services.

It is Okay to Start Small

If you can secure some initial funding and get a co-response program off the ground, do not get discouraged. Suppose it is not precisely the most extensive, all-encompassing program that you had envisioned straight away. If it is a part-time program to start, that is perfectly fine.

The most important thing is that you are helping people and getting a program going in your community. Even with a one-person program, you will learn a tremendous amount and start collecting the data you need to secure a larger budget in the future. Then, as people see it working, you will likely get more funding and grow the program to help even more people over time.

You Need to Sell to Stakeholders

People who work in law enforcement or behavioural health may not be very familiar with selling to stakeholders – it is not the norm in these professions. However, to implement a successful co-response program, you need to get buy-in from community partners. Partners could include the fire department, hospitals, city councils, department of mental health, etc. 

Once you sell to stakeholders, make sure you identify a liaison from each group you work with who can champion the program. It is also essential to have diversity within your stakeholders. You want many different parts of the community involved in this process.

Once you have sold to stakeholders, make sure the liaison from each department is available and accessible to answer questions that people in the community might have. Hold regular meetings and receive input from all stakeholders. With a large portion of the community on board, you will see your program reach its goals much faster.

Hold Frequent Meetings

As mentioned above, holding frequent, preferably in-person, meetings is very important. Once a program is implemented, you will want to show people that it is successful. Explain some of your wins. Share specific instances where the program worked and benefitted everyone involved, including how it helps law enforcement.

 It is also important to share how it is creating a safer community. For example, hospitals might receive fewer people to their emergency rooms experiencing a mental health crisis if police officers can take them to see their counsellor or back to a treatment program that they were involved in instead of the hospitals.

For politicians, this hopefully leads to less incarceration, which means saving money that cities can then make available for other community projects. The benefits go on and on, so make sure your community is aware.

Market Your Program

It can be vital to market your program to the community. In fact, it is crucial. Take the time to get to know local reporters and explain to them what you are doing. More importantly, please explain why you are doing it. Finally, be active on social media. Talk to everyone you can about the program, primarily pointing out its successes.

It is essential to make sure the community and everyone involved is on board and invested in making this kind of program work. The more people can see the benefits and hear people talking highly of the program, the better chance it has of surviving and continuing to raise money. Also, please talk about the positive changes it is having in people’s lives.

When people in the community see this positive change, you will be overwhelmed by their support. Community support will lead to increased funding as well. 

Reach Out to Other Programs Around the Country

When you first attempt to implement a co-response program, it is good to reach out to successful programs around the county that already exist. Find out what works for them and what did not work. Visit them for a ride-along. This way, you can build protocols that have already been shown to work.

You can see what you like about their programs, but also what you do not like. The programs do not have to be identical. Finding some that are already established and working well is a great way to get ideas so that your program has a chance to succeed. A great place to collaborate is at the National Co-Responder Conference.

Be Forgiving and Ready to Recalibrate

When implementing this type of program, you will likely find that some clinicians may not mesh with law enforcement and vice versa. Therefore, it can take time to find the necessary amount of help you need and the right combination of people, which is okay.

Getting assistance from the community and having as many people on board with the program is the goal. The support from a vast pool of professionals to work with will pay many dividends. Being a co-responder is complex and may not be for everyone, and that is to be expected. 

Interagency Collaboration Is Hard

Anytime you are trying to get different agencies to collaborate and work together, you will probably hit some bumps in the road. No matter how badly everyone wants the same thing – safer communities and safer police officers – it can still be challenging. 

Everyone has their idea of running a program, and everyone has different levels of training and capabilities. Implementing a co-responder program takes work, patience, and diligence. Training different personnel from different agencies can be difficult.

For example, mental health clinicians may need to learn how to work with more urgency. In contrast, police officers might need some training in being a little bit more patient. Everyone involved will come from a different place of training and understanding, which is a common challenge that needs to be overcome.

Data Collection Is Paramount – Julota Can Help

If you hope to implement a successful co-responder program, one of the most important aspects will be data collection. It would help if you made sure that the correct information is being collected and then shared with the appropriate people. In addition, data collection when using such high-quality software as Julota will help you get bigger budgets by proving outcomes. 

Some challenges faced by co-responder programs regarding data sharing and tracking include interoperability, ease of use, and compliance with security and privacy regulations. Fortunately, Julota is a technology that already exists and solves these problems with ease. In addition, Julota allows different organizations to share data across platforms.

The interface is simple and accessible. It uses cloud computing, so police officers and mental health professionals can use their own devices. In addition, officers and clinicians can use smartphones, iPads, laptops, etc., to access the information, even when they are out in the field. 

Some benefits of using this type of technology include:

  • Increased access to info

By using Julota, police officers will almost certainly be able to access information that they otherwise would not be able to access. For example, you can learn if a person is engaged in mental health treatment or substance abuse treatment somewhere in the community. You can see if they have a counsellor or someone you can call to help de-escalate a situation when they are in a crisis, and 911 is called. The more information that is available, the better, especially when the information is accurate and meaningful. 

  • Easier to gather data

Obtaining data using Julota is simple and easy. Relevant information will show up directly on an officer’s CAD screen. It will help prepare them to see what is going on with the person they are about to come into contact with.

  • It is safer to gather data this way 

When a person is in crisis, they can often be unpredictable. If an officer can gather relevant and vital information before approaching the person in crisis, it will be much safer. It will help them speak with that person and de-escalate a tense situation. For example, suppose the individual is involved in treatment somewhere. In that case, the officer can quickly reach out to their counsellor or treatment provider. From there, they can see if there is any other information they can get that might help them deal with this person and keep everyone safe.

Another major challenge with co-responder programs and data sharing is ensuring that technology and data sharing comply with all data privacy and security regulations. It is essential to ensure that this sensitive information stays private and is not available unless it is allowed to be accessed.

Julota uses the highest levels of data security to ensure that only the permitted professionals get access and permissions to the data they need.  

Julota is a flexible, interoperable, and compliant cloud-based platform that enables communities to implement critical initiatives like Mental Health and Law Enforcement Co-Responders, Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT), and more. Our software enables communities to better address their mental health and substance abuse issues while still expanding the impact of their limited community resources by connecting the right service, with the right resources and information, at the right time. Julota is a powerful tool that can help save communities money and increase their successes in crisis management.