Montrose, COLO.— The Montrose County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) is committed to supporting the safety and mental health of sheriff’s staff and first responders in the Seventh Judicial District. Sheriff Gene Lillard is proud to announce a Peer Support Team. The team is designed to provide support to officers and their families. Across the nation, an estimated 159 police officers took their own lives in 2018, and this team aims to combat stressors that may lead to mental health issues.

“I believe strongly in the peer support team. It is very necessary that we embrace its members and what they are tasked to do. The men and women of the MCSO often see and experience the more ugly part of life. This can and does take a toll on our officers and their families,” said Sheriff Gene Lillard. “No division within the MCSO is immune from the ugly side of life, which includes our records division who reads and downloads the deputies’ reports into our records system. We, as a team, are developing a safety net to help our people through some of the trying times that they have experienced or will be experiencing in the future.”

“Our intent is to be a peer support team that not only helps our deputies and families, but first responders across the Seventh Judicial. A career in law enforcement can be a stressful lifestyle and the team’s goal is to help alleviate those stressors,” said Deputy Dominic Lovato. “Suicide rates in law enforcement officers are on the rise, and I want officers to know that the team will be there for you in your time of need whether it is an incident at home or at work.”

The team will serve to provide a resource for mental health and support for officers who have been exposed to a critical incident, life-circumstance change, or other stressors. Officers face trauma, shootings, and horrific accidents that have the potential to lead to mental health issues that are often untreated. Also, the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression for law enforcement officers is significantly higher than the majority of the population. The team is led by a steering committee including Team Coordinator Deputy Rick Mayer, Assistant Coordinator Deputy Lovato, and Acting Coordinators Victim Advocate Linda Carl and Sergeant James Evans. The next step is to continue to grow the team internally. Clinical oversight for the team is led by Dr. Suzy Coykendall. The steering committee has attended several training days and additional training will be provided by Dr. Coykendall. For more information on the sheriff’s office, please visit montrosecountysheriffsoffice.com.