Colorado is pushing for new approaches to how police officers handle cases involving mental illness and drug addiction, encouraging them to steer low-level offenders toward treatment rather than jail and giving them assistance in dealing with potentially dangerous situations.
In one tactic, mental health professionals ride with officers during 911 responses and some routine patrols. In another, local communities place case managers into high-crime areas to help police keep drug users, prostitutes and other offenders out of the criminal justice system.
The Colorado Department of Human Services is planning to distribute $16 million over the next three years to support such efforts. The state will award $5.3 million this month. As many as 12 police departments could use the money to emphasize treatment over incarceration.