PARKER, Colo. -- Parker Police say mental illness is a growing problem in the city as well as the country as a whole, and they have the numbers to prove it.
The Parker Police Department is averaging between 230 to 280 mental health holds a year. In the last four years, the number of mental illness calls that Parker police officers respond to have increased by 24 percent.
“One in five adults will experience a mental health episode this year alone,” said Parker Police Detective Tyler Herman.
“Mental illness is present and we need to address those folks the same way we address anybody else, but we need to be more effective doing that,” said Herman.
The department has now added certified clinician Jennifer Fierberg to assist officers during mental illness calls.
“People are very open to talking with me. I differentiate myself as not an officer, but a clinician there to help them,” said Fierberg.
The majority of Parker PD officers are certified to handle mental illness calls, but clinicians can take the call further than an officer can by providing help now instead of hours later.
“We are experiencing more mental illness than ever and it's going untreated. A lot of insurance companies are blocking barrier to treatment,” said Fierberg.
The program is only four days old, but detective Herman is hoping it has a long-term impact.
“What we are here to do is to ensure that they get the help that they need at the time that they needed it,” said Herman.
In 2014, the parker Police Department responded to 208 mental illness-related calls. That number increased to 226 by the next year. In 2016, the number of mental-illness-related calls to the department jumped to 262 and that number is projected to rise to 264 in 2017. So far this year, officers have responded to 88 mental illness-related calls.