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Behavioral Health Career Highlight: Co-Responder Role

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Summary of Role

Co-responders are behavioral health clinicians paired with police officers to respond to calls. The co-responder provides crisis intervention and assessment to connect the individual with appropriate treatment and mental health services and helps to divert people in crisis from the criminal justice system and emergency rooms. More than 70 law enforcement agencies in Colorado participate in a Co-responder program.

There are two models of a Co-Response team: primary and secondary.

  1. Primary response model – This is an officer and behavioral health specialist riding together in the same vehicle for an entire shift. Northern Colorado example: Larimer County Sheriff’s Office.

  2. Secondary response model- the behavioral health specialist follows the officer or meets them at the scene, then working together on the call. If needed, this allows the behavioral health specialist to provide transportation without requiring the person to ride in the back of a police vehicle. Northern Colorado example: Loveland Police Department


  1. Provide rapid crisis intervention and assessment to individuals who have come to the attention the of police

  2. Depending on the model used by the agency, accompany police officers on patrol or respond separately.

  3. Work in collaboration with police to ensure that persons with behavioral health needs are appropriately diverted from the criminal justice system and referred for appropriate behavioral health services

  4. Provide and/or coordinate, as needed training to police personnel regarding behavioral health, substance use, trauma spectrum disorders, and other behavioral health topics as identified

  5. Refer individuals to follow up treatment, support and case management.


  1. The Co-responder program is available nationwide but still fairly new. 

  2. Work/life balance is an important focus.

  3. As the model grows, more co-responders are needed to assist with the amount of crisis, behavioral health related calls coming through dispatch.

  4. A co-responder is juggling multiple situations simultaneously, constantly triaging to ensure they are making timely, effective contacts.


  1. Decreased involvement in the criminal justice system and hospital emergency rooms for people suffering from mental health or substance abuse issues. In communities where there is no co-responder program in place, it is generally the sole responsibility of police officers to handle all 911 calls.

  2. A unique way to provide social work/counseling services for a variety of people in your community. The co-responder role breaks stereotypes of what mental health care looks like.

  3. Every shirt and every call is different.

  4. Having a strong personality doesn’t mean you can’t be a social worker, for co-responders, it’s an asset.

Career Pathway

  1. Most organizations do not require previous experience in behavioral health, but do prefer it. Specific training including role playing crisis situations is usually offered once hired to a an organization.

  2. Individuals interested in a Co-Responder role usually study a Social Service or Behavioral Health related field.

Education/Certifications required

  1. Typical education requirements: Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, Psychology, Counseling or Behavioral Health related field. For some organizations, a Masters degree is required. 

  2. Preferred Licensure/Certification: Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), Licensed Marriage and Family Counselor (LMFT) or Licensed Addiction Counselor (ACD).

  3. Organizations will require a background check and could request drug screen. 

Describe a typical day of work

Most co-responders have a set number of days they work (could be part-time or full-time).

Loveland Police Department shifts for Co-responders:

  1. Hours/Schedule

  2. Is it typical/predictable?

Larimer County Sheriff’s Department shifts for Co-responders:

  1. Hours/Schedule

  2. Is it typical/predictable?

Northern Colorado Co-Responder Programs

Loveland Police Department, partnership with SummitStone Health Partners

Estes Park Police Department, partnership with SummitStone Health Partners


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