Published: Jan. 27, 2020

The CU Boulder Police Department has partnered with Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) to bring real-time tablet video call services to students who may be in a mental health crisis after hours. Planning began in the spring of 2019 and the program was launched Oct. 1.

Two to three times a week during peak after-hour times, a licensed counselor is on call to respond when needed. Statistics show that these times are some of the peak times when mental health intervention is needed.

Police officers have three options with this project when they encounter a student who may be experiencing a mental health crisis: the officer can speak with the counselor to help decide what is best for the student, they can connect the counselor with the student for an introductory counseling session, and the counselor can provide student background directly with a counselor at the hospital for better continuity of care.

Until this project, CUPD officers had the option to take students to CAPS during normal business hours or to the hospital after hours. If a student was physically upset, officers would use their de-escalation training to calm the situation.

“This partnership has changed the way that our officers are able to interact with students who need mental health services,” said CUPD Cmdr. Mark Heyart. “We have seen a huge improvement in the outcomes in these calls. It’s a way to bring the counselor immediately to the scene without delay in what could be a tense situation.”

Recently, officers responded to a call in which a man, who was in crisis, became very upset while officers were trying to get him the help he needed. The next week, officers were called to same person. This time, the CAPS counselor was able to speak with the person. After speaking with the counselor, he willingly and peacefully walked out to an ambulance for transport to a local hospital.

“The telehealth program allows officers to consult with a mental health professional and have the patient evaluated in real-time, making the officers better able to respond to mental health emergencies in an effective and informed way,” said Judy Taub, associate director of clinical services at CAPS. “Through this partnership, CUPD and CAPS are working to ensure that our students are connected with the care and services they need.”

This project is patterned after telehealth programs that can be used to connect doctors with patients in remote communities. The program utilizes a secure connection to ensure patient confidentiality.