DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has formed a new team to help assist with mental illness calls.
The unit includes a licensed health care expert who goes on calls with a deputy. The partnership is already paying dividends.
Molly Johnson says two guardian angels saved her son's life.
“They literally saved his life and saved our family's life,” she told Denver7’s Tom Mustin.
Corporal Brian Briggs and Dr. Adrienne Burris are part of the "community response team" with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office.
Last year, they were there for Johnson's 20-year-old son, who has schizophrenia and who was in the middle of an episode.
“They chatted with him for over an hour,” she said. “It was like he had died. They essentially brought him back to life.”
The CRT is a joint effort between the sheriff's office and Castle Rock Police to address mental health issues in the county.
Dr. Burris is a mental health expert. She works with Briggs on mental health calls. The team takes up to 12 calls per day.
“Most crimes are either going to be drug and alcohol-related or mental health-related,” said Briggs.
The goal is to provide immediate mental health treatment on-scene and free-up officers to do their jobs.
"The whole goal is to decriminalize mental illness. We can actually take somebody from the street and take them to a facility and get them help the next hour or hour and a half, versus sitting in an emergency room,” said Briggs.
Corporal Briggs says his team has served more than 850 people this year, keeping many of them out of jail.
“We know it's a problem in our society; that's why these teams are going to become more valuable,” he said.
Burris said the CRT focuses on long-term treatment, rather than punishment.
“It's absolutely amazing. There's no other position where you have the ability to connect with people like I do,” said Burris.
The team also follows up with their clients. Briggs says Denver police and Aurora police now have similar programs.
Now after months of treatment, Johnson's son is back in school and thriving. She says her son is living proof the CRT program is a game changer.
“I thank God every single day that they came to our rescue,” she said.