A breakdown in mental health services across the state of Colorado has left law enforcement on the front lines of handling people in crisis. 

The Rocky Mountain PBS Insight with John Ferrugia team spent more than a year gathering stories from all over the state showing the often-tragic interactions between the criminal justice system and people who are suffering a mental health crisis. 

The stories show mentally ill people are being shot by police and officers are being wounded and even killed in these interactions.

People, often judged mentally incompetent, are spending months in jail without trial waiting through a backlogged mental evaluation system. And police officers say rather than investigating crimes, they are often spending much of their day trying to help people who should be receiving mental health treatment.  

In this special hour-long program, “Breakdown,” Insight explores how jails have become the primary gateway to mental health treatment in Colorado, and is asking what the state is doing to try to address it.

If you need mental health services, contact Colorado Crisis Services for confidential support: 844-493-TALK (8255) or text “TALK” to 38255.


Subscribe to the Insight podcast on Apple PodcastsStitcher, and Soundcloud.

Episode 1: Breakdown: Officer-Involved Trauma

Husband and wife deputy sheriffs share their experiences with trauma and mental health on duty, after two critical incidents drove them close to the breaking point.


No security blanket: Rural Colorado jails struggle to provide mental health treatment

Posted by John Ferrugia, Phil Maravilla on

When a detainee is suffering a mental health crisis, Rio Grande county deputies and staff keep watch from a desk just steps outside the holding cells. Periodically, they enter the cell to check on the person and offer calming words. But they are not trained mental health professionals.

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Boulder County emphasizes mental health services for offenders

Last Updated by John Ferrugia, Phil Maravilla on

At the Boulder County Jail, incarceration means an immediate mental health evaluation, and it begins at the booking desk.

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Behind bars, a threat looms: Deputy nearly dies after attack by mentally ill inmate

Posted by John Ferrugia, Phil Maravilla on

A jail deputy suffered permanent injuries and lost his career after an attack by a mentally ill inmate. But remarkably, he says he holds no grudge against the man who nearly killed him and never wanted him to be prosecuted.

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A broken system: Colorado struggles to uphold laws requiring timely mental competency service for detainees, despite losing lawsuits and years of failure

Posted by John Ferrugia, Phil Maravilla on

Hundreds of people are in Colorado jails, presumed innocent while awaiting trial, but are stuck there because the state has failed for nearly a decade to provide mental health services, including mental competency evaluations.

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The never-ending cycle of the mental health hold: How many M-1 holds does it take before a person in crisis can get real help?

Last Updated by John Ferrugia, Phil Maravilla on

Forrest Williams spent more than a year in the Arapahoe County jail -- not for any crime, but awaiting mental health treatment so the 25-year-old could be deemed competent to face charges of threatening Judith Wilson, Williams' mother.

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Woman who injured deputy during mental health crisis says arrest saved her life

Last Updated by John Ferrugia, Brittany Freeman, Phil Maravilla on

A woman who attacked a deputy while suffering through a mental health crisis said the incident saved her life by giving her access to the treatment she needed.

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Insight with John Ferrugia is in-depth, independent and incisive. John and a team of investigative journalists present thoroughly researched stories of significance to Colorado.