By Dillon Thomas, CBS Colorado
Behavioral health practitioner works with campus police to provide support on scene
FORT COLLINS – Colorado State University has become one of the first universities in the nation to embed a mental health expert within their campus police department. Thanks to a 50/50 partnership with health provider UCHealth, those in and around CSU's Fort Collins campus will receive another level of service from CSUPD.
UCHealth and CSU hired Francesca Raynaert, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, to support students, staff and visitors at CSU. "A university is a very important population to target," Raynaert said.
She also said she's only been with the department for a month, but people on campus have relied upon her heavily already. "Almost daily I am going out for calls and offering support," Raynaert said. "College-age students are often away from home for the first time and experiencing a lot of change and growth."
Raynaert is not a sworn officer nor does she carry a firearm or defensive weapons. Instead, she is dispatched to calls with CSUPD officers to handle situations involving behavioral health.
"The goal with having a co-responder is preventing unnecessary hospitalizations and incarcerations related to mental health. The goal is to stabilize in place," she said.
CSUPD Chief Jay Callaghan said bringing Raynaert on staff was important when he recently joined the agency, highlighting and admitting that his officers at times aren't the best people to respond to some support calls. However, before Raynaert arrived, they were forced to handle situations in which mental health experts would've been more effective.
"It is such a vital resource that law enforcement can use," Callaghan said. "It is all about providing the best resources we can provide to the CSU community."
Raynaert not only provides support at the scene, but also follows up with respondents.
"We are not always the best resource for someone who may be in crisis. If we can provide a subject matter expert that handles mental health crisis, then we are going to embrace that and move forward with that initiative," Callaghan said.