How Colorado Expanded Mental Health Services After Theater Shooting


After the Aurora theater shooting, Colorado legislators approved $20 million to change how people going through a mental health crisis can get help, NPR reports. The structure of a mental health crisis varies dramatically from person to person. The state now has 13 walk-in crisis centers. Larry Pottorff directs North Range Behavioral Health, one of them. “The first priority is why are you here and how can we help?” he says. The entryway “will be available to people around the clock,” he adds.

“I really think of it as a new way of responding to people in crisis. Historically, that’s been done through emergency rooms,” Pottorff says. The new system includes the walk-in centers, a statewide hotline and mobile units that can be dispatched in the event of crisis. In a new respite care program, where crisis patients can stay for up to 14 days, there’s a close hand-off between walk-in crisis centers and community services. There’s no guarantee that the new system will prevent the next theater shooting. Mental health experts simply hope the changes will narrow cracks in the system, making it harder for the next person in crisis to slip through.

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