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A randomized controlled trial of Co-response for Mental Health Calls for Service to the Police in Fort Collins, CO

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $649,464)

A randomized controlled trial of Co-response for
Mental Health Calls for Service to the Police in Fort Collins, CO


The proposed study seeks to evaluate the effectiveness of a co-responder program on encounters
between the police and individuals experiencing a mental health crisis in Fort Collins, CO. The
co-responder program is becoming increasingly more popular, but with little knowledge on the
impact of these programs on characteristics and outcomes of the call, such as arrest or use of
force, and longer-term outcomes such as use of treatment services. We are proposing a
randomized control trial (RCT) that would randomly assign mental/behavioral health calls for
service to treatment and control conditions. The treatment condition is the co-response by the
Mental Health Response Team (MHRT) and the control condition is a traditional police

Partnered with a large health network, UCHealth, the MHRT program at Fort Collins Police
Services, or “The Fort Collins Model,” was developed in 2018 and is now well-established in the
department and community. Yet, the MHRTs are not able to go to every behavioral health call
the department receives, and many calls still receive a traditional police response providing a
unique opportunity to randomize the calls. The evaluation will have two components. First, we
assess the immediate response and impact of the response on call outcomes. For those low-risk
calls, eligible for randomization, we will compare the treatment and control calls for outcomes
such as call disposition/resolution (resolved on scene, hospital, arrest, etc.), the time spent on
call, repeat calls, use of force, and officer/citizen injury. Second, we will evaluate the follow-up
component of the program to compare those who received MHRT for the initial call to those who
received police response and referral/follow-up from the team, ideally looking at longer-term
treatment use.

We are proposing a two-year project consisting of a 6-month planning phase to prepare for the
RCT, a 1-year experimental period, followed by another 6-month period to collect and analyze
data. In addition to analyzing police call data and the outcomes of the calls, we propose other
forms of data collection to include ride-alongs by trained field researchers, coding to body-worn
camera footage of a random sample of calls (treatment and control), and qualitative interviews of
individuals who had contact with the co-response team. These types of data will provide insights
on the complex nature of these calls and how the interaction unfolds between the co-responder
team and the citizen/client. CA/NCF

Date Created: September 28, 2023