Going Beyond Traditional Methods of Care

Transforming Communities


The yellow Labrador, named Leo, has completed training and currently works as a crisis response canine in Pima County, Arizona.

The Tucson Police Department in Arizona reports that one out of every eight service calls it receives involves a potential mental health issue. Centene's subsidiary Arizona Complete Health (AzCH) is collaborating with local law enforcement agencies across various jurisdictions to create and implement programs designed to help officers resolve these types of situations in a peaceful manner.

In Pima County, AzCH recently partnered with the Sheriff's Department to welcome the department's first deputized therapy dog. Leo, a yellow Labrador, has completed a year-long training and currently works as a crisis response canine. He is now officially on active duty!

Deputy Leo responds to crisis calls with his human partner to provide comfort and a measure of relief in high-pressure situations. He has been such a success that Pima County has expanded the program, adding two new canine officers-in-training to the unit.

As the Regional Behavioral Health Authority for Pima County, AzCH has also developed a mental health first-aid training program for the Tucson Police Department. The specialized program instructs officers on tools they can use to de-escalate crisis situations. So far, 850 officers have completed the training and there are plans underway to train additional law enforcement officers. 

Additionally, the Pinal County Sheriff's Department and the Tucson Police Department have implemented a Co-Responder Team that pairs a police officer with an Arizona Complete Health crisis clinician. The Co-Responder Team answers service calls where behavioral health treatment can be applied. The Teams provide on-the-ground services such as crisis assessments, coordination of care, safety planning, de-escalation and placement facilitation.

Improving the safety and efficiency of police response to a wide variety of crisis situations is the ultimate goal of these programs, according to Medicaid Program President, James D. Stover. "At Arizona Complete Health, we believe in working closely with law enforcement. The Mental Health First Aid Training program is a good example of how we can partner together to do good for the communities we serve," Stover said.