January 28, 2020
Beginning in February, the El Paso Sheriff’s Office is expanding their co-responder unit known as the Behavioral Health Connect Unit (BHCON). The campus police at UCCS have also been focusing more on mental health training.
The BHCON unit is a five-year pilot program tasked with intervening during mental health crises, helping victims seek out mental health services and following up with victims afterward.
BHCON was created in July 2018 by the El Paso Sheriff’s Office to step in and prevent these tense situations from escalating beyond control. The unit is headed by the El Paso Sheriff’s Office Deputy along with a licensed behavioral health clinician from Memorial Hospital. Together, they respond to all emergency calls that are directly related behavioral health issues.
Marc Pino, the Chief of UCCS Police, said the relationship of UCCS Police with the Colorado Springs police department (COS PD) and other campus police.
“We’re our own department, meaning we were hired by the University of Colorado – Colorado Springs. So, we are completely separate [from the COS PD], but we are also separate from any of the other University of Colorado departments as well. Each department is run and housed in their own university. We are the same way.”
Pino goes on to talk about the training that UCCS police receive that is standard throughout the state:
“One thing that we’ve done to mirror, do exactly the same as our community partners,” Chief Pino said, “is that there are two trainings we send our officers, dispatchers – everyone that works with the public, basically. The first one is Mental Health First Aid.”
He continued, “That one is [about] responding to people in some sort of mental health crisis. [handling] different types of [mental] illnesses that present differently, how to interact with that person, so we are not escalating the situation: we’re really helping them out. Everybody in our department has taken that training.”
“The other training that we do is called CIT (Crisis Intervention Training),” Pino went on to explain. “It’s sort of the next step up from [Mental Health First Aid] MHFA. MFSA is an eight-hour training and CIT is a 40-hour training. MHFA is learning everything, and CIT is really applying it. They get actors and people from the community to act out roles and things like that.”
UCCS has its own mental health response team called C.A.R.E. (Campus Assessment Response and Evaluation) Team. Pino, along with director of Mental Health, Benek Altayli, and Case Manager, Alex Baker, make up the team.
To ensure the quickest response, contact Public Safety Dispatch at 715-255-3111 to inform the CARE Team of a situation.