Caring for Denver Issues First Grants Worth About $2 Million


Caring for Denver Issues First Grants Worth About $2 Million


5280 • Maya Chiodo • 2/04/2020

In 2018, voters approved a $0.25 sales tax by passing the Caring for Denver ballot initiative. Now, a newly formed foundation is starting to dole out grants to programs that help Denverites experiencing mental health and substance misuse challenges get treatment.

As most voters are aware, it can feel like ages between the moment a ballot initiative is passed on Election Day and its implementation. In the case of Caring for Denver (the ballot initiative aimed at helping Denverites experiencing mental health struggles and substance misuse issues) it’s been 15 months of waiting. But for good reason.

The initiative created a foundation, which recently rolled out a list of three grant recipients set to receive about $2 million. This is part of what is estimated to be an annual total of approximately $35 million in revenue from the $0.25 sales tax this year. But before deciding on the programs to help fund, the foundation had to do its due diligence. First, it applied and received approval as a 501c3 nonprofit, then formed their board of directors, and hired staff—all in less than three months time. Next, led by executive director Lorez Meinhold, the foundation spoke with more than 1,500 community members, worked with more than 60 organizations, and conducted a poll to determine what, exactly, Denver really wanted. 

This first set of grant recipients mainly addresses alternatives to jail, co-responders programs, and training for first responders, since these were the areas outlined in the original initiative. If the programs are effective, the hope is that they may be adopted by other cities in Colorado and throughout the country. “We’re hoping that we serve as a model,” says Colorado Rep. Leslie Herod, who championed the ballot initiative and now serves as the foundation’s board chair. Here’s a look at where the money’s going. 

1. Expansion of the Co-Responder Program | $1,762,405

This program will expand a partnership between the Denver Police Department (DPD) and Mental Health Center of Denver by adding 10 mental health clinicians—who will ride along with law enforcement professionals to respond to calls where there is a known or expected mental or substance misuse need involved—and 11 case managers. Police districts with higher volumes of calls will receive those additional clinicians. (Districts 3 and 4, which together cover Denver’s southern half, will each receive two additional clinicians.)

The role of case managers, in contrast to the mitigation efforts of clinicians, involves comprehensive follow-ups with individuals. In 2018, after incidents with law enforcement, 71 people were connected to housing through the program. Now, with a greater number of people and resources, that number could grow.

2. Support Team Assisted Response | $208,141

The DPD will adopt Support Team Assisted Response (STAR), a community response program modeled after the CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) in Eugene, Oregon.  After visiting Eugene to observe CAHOOTS, Herod was inspired to adopt and adapt the plan to fit Denver’s needs. 

To see how well the teams worked with law enforcement and how well respected they are in the community was really, really inspiring,” Herod says. Since Eugene and Denver have many differences (Eugene has a population of 170,000, is more rural, and less diverse than Denver), STAR will be a pilot program so that officials can determine what works. With DPD on board to try the program out, Herod believes the city has shown its true commitment to addressing the issues of mental health and substance misuse in a more “humane” way.

The program will pair EMTs and paramedics with health clinicians or peer navigators to respond to 911 dispatches involving a mental health or substance misuse issue. 

3. Verbal De-Escalation Training for First Responders | $24,246

Denver Health Paramedics and the Denver Fire Department will be equipped with tools that can help curtail the escalation of potentially threatening situations involving substance misuse or mental health distress. The training program, which is a pilot, will use Denver law enforcement’s existing Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) as a starting point.

As for what’s next on the docket, Caring for Denver is gearing up to review new grant proposals from city agencies, schools, nonprofits, and other stakeholder groups. After March, when the exact 2019 tax revenue is released (it’s expected to be close to $36.1 million), the foundation will review submitted proposals. Since the foundation is still brand new, they plan to review proposals and award grants one at a time. “We want to make sure we’re doing it right before we open up the next [grant area],” says Meinhold. 

Regardless of how many programs the foundation is able to fund this year, every penny of funding will be doled out. “We want the money in community,” Meinhold says. In particular, Herod hopes to see underserved populations and “unlikely contenders,” like groups who have never been funded by a large foundation before, vie for grant money. 

Seeing tangible results may take some time, but Caring for Denver is optimistic. “I want to be clear that what we’re asking for here is a culture shift,” Herod says. “It’s not easy, but I’m so glad that these folks are on board.”

Caring for Denver Foundation Announces Priority Funding Areas


Caring for Denver Foundation Announces Priority Funding Areas

Media contact: Taylor Roddy • 312.208.6483 •

Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation recently released its initial strategic funding report outlining key funding areas to help address the mental health and substance misuse challenges facing the City and County of Denver.

Under leadership from Executive Director, Lorez Meinhold, Caring for Denver operates as an independent nonprofit foundation to oversee and distribute nearly $35M per year in funding to help catalyze bold and meaningful impact in our communities. Architected by State Representative Leslie Herod and funded by voters in 2018, Caring for Denver will harness the strength of the voter initiative in 2018 to partner with those on the front lines to forge a new path for tackling the right challenges with the most effective solutions by not only listening, but learning from the community from which it was created.

In the span of six weeks, Caring for Denver engaged in a robust community engagement effort that gathered input from more than 1,600 people with lived experience, first responders, creatives, youth, and so many others across 120 organizations and through small community events, four forums, three virtual events in English and Spanish, and by phone. This feedback informed the most immediate needs in the following areas:

  • Youth – Better address and support mental health and substance misuse, and create more connections for our youth.
  • Community-Centered Solutions – Use community knowledge, strengths, and resources to foster local connectedness and support.
  • Care Provision – More people in Denver have access to the mental health and substance misuse care at the right time, and the supports to navigate care.
  • Alternatives to Jail – Greater supports, connections, practices, and opportunities to redirect people experiencing mental health and substance misuse crisis away from and out of the criminal justice system.

“This report represents thoughtful input from so many throughout the city and will be the cornerstone of our work for the next several years. It is as much a reflection of community as it is of us. We will take a bold approach to grant-making that will have a lasting impact in our community. We are eager to begin to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, and turning the community’s desire to help into action,” said Executive Director, Lorez Meinhold.

“The work of Caring for Denver Foundation will be transformational for tens of thousands of residents, their families, friends and youth who struggle every single day with untreated and undertreated mental health and substance misuse challenges. I am proud to have championed the issue and continue the work,“ said Board Chair, Representative Leslie Herod.

The report is available at and open for community feedback for the next month by emailing Check the website or as more information is available on future calls for proposals and funding opportunities.

About Caring for Denver Foundation
Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support in November of 2018 to put 25 cents from every hundred dollars spent into a community fund for mental health and substance misuse issues. Caring for Denver will distribute at least $35 million per year to support programs in Denver that:

– Increase mental health and substance misuse prevention, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction

– Provide alternatives to jails and emergency rooms as a first stop for those in crisis

– Fund community-identified priorities

Caring for Denver Foundation is a public 501c3 nonprofit organization integrated with and accountable to stakeholders across Denver with oversight from 13 Board members appointed by the Mayor, District Attorney, and City Council President. Representative Leslie Herod serves as the board chairwoman.

About Lorez Meinhold
Lorez Meinhold serves as the Executive Director of Caring for Denver. She brings over nineteen years of implementation and policy experience as a director of multilateral initiatives involving the public, private and civic sectors, working at the local, state, and national levels. Lorez has worked in many capacities integrating health programs addressing mental health and substance misuse needs, connecting early childhood and health communities, delivery and payment system reforms, and efforts that required statewide stakeholder engagement.

About Rep. Leslie Herod
Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod (D-Denver) was elected in 2016 as the first LGBTQ African American in the Colorado General Assembly. Since then, she has passed 52 bills, addressing criminal justice reform, mental health, addiction, youth homelessness, education, and civil rights protections. Herod championed the Caring for Denver Ballot measure and now

Denver hosts first information session regarding mental health funding tax, Seth Juneac, Fox Denver 31

Denver nonprofit organization hosted an information session Saturday to gauge the public on mental health and substance misuse issues in the community.

Caring4Denver is tasked with identifying how to prioritize the funds coming from the mental health funding tax approved by Denver voters in November 2018. The measure would put $0.25 from every $100 spent into a community fund. Saturday’s meeting is to help determine how the estimated $45 million should be spent.

“As we form our strategic priorities, it’s important for us to community input,” said Caring4Denver executive director Lorez Meinhold. “Really hoping to hear from people, both the top issues they see going on in the city and county of Denver that they’re experiencing, the challenges they might face, and to talk about where to start with this funding, where should we start to prioritize funding and having them help inform where we go with those resources.”

Go to for dates, times, locations, and to register today.

Caring Denver Foundation Aims to Include Input from Queer Community, Seth Holder, OutFront Magazine, 11/12/19

On November 7 at the Center for Visual Art, Caring for Denver Foundation held its public launch event. The well-attended event included leaders such as Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod and Carl Clark, M.D. from the Mental Health Center of Denver. Both of them, along with other community leaders, advocates, and persons with lived experience pushed to bring increased funding for mental health and substance misuse needs into reality.

Every day, thousands of our neighbors struggle with mental health and substance misuse, often without the support and resources they need. This is especially true of the LGBTQ community considering, 

  • In LGBTQ people ages 10-24, suicide is the second-leading cause of death (Centers for Disease Control, 2013).
  • People in the LGBTQ+ community experience mental health issues at higher rates. A recent study found 61 percent have depression, 45 percent have PTSD, and 36 percent have an anxiety disorder (Rainbow Health, January 2018). Overall, one in three LGBTQ adults experienced mental illness during the past year (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2015).
  • An estimated 25 percent of the LGBTQ community abuses substances, compared to about 9 percent the general population (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015).
  • In a national study, 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. Also, 92 percent of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. (The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality).
  • LGBTQ  older adults face several unique challenges, including the combination of anti-LGBTQ+ stigma and ageism. Approximately 31 percent of LGBTQ older adults report depressive symptoms; 39 percent report serious thoughts of taking their own lives (American Psychiatric Association, 2017)

During this month and into early December, Caring for Denver Foundation will hold several community-wide events to better understand the specific concerns individuals and families are confronting. As part of this effort, Caring for Denver will be hosting events focused on the unique needs of  LGBTQ+ individuals in partnership with Envision:YouOne Coloradoand The Center on Colfax.

The events will be held:

November 25, University of Denver, Sturm Hall 379, from 5:30 p.m.  – 7:30 p.m.

December 4, The Center on Colfax, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. and again 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Space is limited for each of the events. 

According to Envision:You co-founder Steven Haden, “It’s wonderful Caring for Denver Foundation is dedicated to ensuring voices from marginalized communities are heard. We are grateful to the team at the Foundation for their work to address the unique needs of the queer community who face disparities in accessing and receiving care as well as experiencing poor outcomes.”

Will Denver Vote to Fund More Mental Health and Addiction Services?, Daliah Singer, 5280, 10/18/18

House Representative Leslie Herod is asking for the public’s help to address the Mile High City’s dearth of mental health and addiction services. “I see how much the community is hurting. I see our alarming rates of suicide…There are three to four overdoses on the streets of Denver every day,” she says. “We need more help, and we don’t have it right now.”

Currently, the Mile High City doesn’t have the money or the capacity to meet the community’s needs. According to Dr. Carl Clark, president and CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD), one in five people are dealing with a mental health or addiction issue on a daily basis, and one in four will face one over the course of the year. But, he adds, “only two out of five people are actually getting the help they need.” In part, that’s because they don’t know where to go or how to find a provider, or there aren’t any services nearby that they can access.

Denver voters asked to raise taxes to increase mental health, substance abuse funding, 7 News, 10/14/18
In Denver, one of those issues is being called Caring 4 Denver, which would raise $45 million every year to fund mental health and addiction services for children and adults by adding a 25-cent tax on every $100 in purchases.

On this weekend’s Politics Unplugged, State Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, talks to Anne Trujillo about why she supports the initiative and why she thinks it eventually will be adopted by other cities and counties across the state.

Initiated Ordinance 301 — Caring 4 Denver — aims to relieve a mental health system under duress, Kevin Beaty, Denverite, 10/15/18
Initiated Ordinance 301, which appears on Denver’s ballot this year, is one group’s answer. The people behind the initiative marketed as Caring 4 Denver hope it will start moving the city toward improved care for both emergency workers and the people they serve, though even some supporters are skeptical that more money will result in better circumstances.

The measure aims to raise $45 million by adding a quarter-of-a-percent tax on sales – 25 cents on a $100 purchase – that would be pooled for use in mental health services. In the first two years, 20 percent of that money would go into a fund for a new mental health center, then 10 percent of that fund would be earmarked for the facility in following years. Up to five percent could be used for program administration, and the rest could be doled out as grants to any organization needing more mental health support.

Caring 4 Denver: What You Will Be Voting for in November, Conor McCormick-Cavanagh, 9/27/18
In November, Denver voters will weigh whether to pass Herod’s Caring 4 Denver ballot initiative, which would increase the sales tax by .25 percent, or about $45 million annually, to bolsters the city’s existing mental-health and substance-abuse treatment options and fund suicide prevention programs and those targeting the opioid epidemic.

The initiative is also designed to “reduce homelessness, improve long-term recovery, and reduce the use of jails and emergency rooms.” “The largest mental health facilities are jails and prisons,” Herod says. “I think this is the most important issue facing Denver today.”

Denver can and should help those with mental health needs, Leslie Herod & Carl Clark, 10/13/18
Caring 4 Denver will appear at the end of ballots in Denver as Initiated Ordinance 301 and will be a one-quarter-of 1 percent sales and use tax increase (25 cents on a $100-dollar purchase), and raise $45 million per year, to be used for improving the quality, availability, and affordability of community based mental health and addiction care in Denver.

Services that could be supported include counseling, in-patient treatment, school services and prevention programs. The funds will be managed by an independent board of stakeholders in mental health and addiction services.

"Help Denver win its war against the opioid epidemic" -Dr. Rob Valuck & Rep. Leslie Herod, Colorado Politics, 8/31/18
Caring 4 Denver will create a culture of change in our community. We can create a conversation where opioid addiction is destigmatized and help is available for those who need and want it. We have the power to make Denver one of the success stories. We have the power to fight the stigma. We have the power to act. And we have the power to vote to support treatment for opioid addiction and substance abuse.

Caring 4 Denver won’t solve the problem overnight but it will be the single greatest thing Denver has ever done to address the overdose crisis.

"Tax hike for Denver mental health and drug services makes the ballot" -Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics, 8/22/18

A request for a 0.25 percent sales tax for mental health services and addiction treatment qualified for the November ballot in Denver Tuesday.

The measure is expected to raise $45 million to improve “the quality, availability and affordability of community-based mental health and addiction care,” said Caring 4 Denver, the group backing the proposal.

"Denver Voters To Decide On A Tax That Will Fund Mental Health, Substance Abuse Care" -John Daley, CPR, 8/23/18
A Denver ballot initiative could bring in tens of millions of dollars a year to help people  with mental health and substance disorder issues.

State Rep. Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat, is spearheading the “Caring 4 Denver” campaign. She said the proposal makes financial sense in that, if it’s passed by voters, it could fund a variety of mental health programs.

The money would come from a one-quarter of 1 percent city sales tax — that’s 25 cents on a $100 purchase.

Caring 4 Denver on Colorado Inside Out, Colorado Public Television, 8/10/18
“This looks like the big winner on the Denver ballot.” -Patricia Calhoun

Patricia Calhoun, Justine Sandoval, Ross Kaminsky, Dave Kopel and host Dominic Dezzutti discuss Caring4Denver on Colorado Public Television – PBS – CPT12’s show “Colorado Inside Out” last Friday.

"Denver Will Vote on Proposed Sales-Tax Increase to Support Mental Health" -Chris Walker, Westword, 8/10/18
The initiative’s sponsors say that the money would address numerous public health and criminal justice crises facing the Denver area, such as extremely high suicide ratesincreasing opioid overdoses, and elevated recidivism rates (cycling in and out) at the city’s jail among those struggling with mental health or substance abuse disorders — which is costly to manage.

Denver is seeing an average of three opioid overdoses a day, and a study released on Wednesday by the University of Colorado Boulder found that one in twenty teens showing serious conduct or substance abuse problems dies by suicide in Colorado before the age of thirty.

"Supporters of a Denver tax proposal raising money for mental health and addiction services drop off signatures" -Esteban L. Hernandez, Denverite, 8/1/18
“People from all walks of life have come together to support mental health and addiction treatment for our friends, family members and neighbors,” Herod said. “We have countless stories of people walking past one of our volunteers until they hear the words ‘mental health & addiction’ and they stop in their tracks and turn around to find out more. We have been thanked over and over for the work we are doing. It is truly inspiring.”
"Community Seeks Tax Hike In Denver For Mental Health And Opioid Crisis" -Alan Gionet, CBS 4 News, 6/14/18
News coverage of the Caring 4 Denver campaign launch.
"‘Feedback: Caring for Denver’ is a vote for mental health" -Brandon Turner, Colorado Politics, 7/12/18
Too many preventative services are simply not available in Denver to people who can’t afford them. Access to this care can help prevent health crises and emergency room visits because people will have support in combating their illnesses, making it less likely they find themselves in an emergency situation.

For too long, Denver has ignored its mental health and substance abuse crisis. Now is the time to start ensuring every Denver resident has the help they need to get healthy. I urge Denver voters to support the Caring for Denver initiative and help our neighbors begin their path to stability.

"Caring for Denver Campaign Kickoff" -Molly Hendrickson, Denver Channel 7, 6/14/18

Representative Leslie Herod discusses the Caring 4 Denver initiative and how it will help people in Denver.

"How a Quarter Can Keep Struggling Non-Criminals in Denver Out of Jail" -Michael Roberts, Westword, 6/14/18
Denver District Attorney Beth McCann is also a Caring 4 Denver booster. Herod says the DA understands that “what we’re doing right now doesn’t work and it’s costly; it diverts the attention of law enforcement from other safety needs the community has. But law enforcement’s hands are tied. They have to take action when they see something happening on the street — but if they could move people in crisis to a facility, get them to detox, get them the services they need, they would. Caring 4 Denver will help do that — and it also allows for co-responders, more mental health and substance abuse professionals who can ride along with Denver police when it’s appropriate.”
"Denver Ballot Initiative Aims To Finance Mental Health, Substance Abuse Programs" -John Daley, CPR, 4/5/18
A ballot initiative in Denver could bring in tens of millions of dollars a year to help those with mental health and substance disorder issues.

State lawmaker Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat, is spearheading the “Caring 4 Denver” campaign.  She says the proposal makes financial sense because if it’s passed by voters it could fund a variety of mental health programs. The proposal calls for a one-quarter of 1 percent sales tax — that’s 25 cents on a $100 purchase.

"Opinion: Lawmakers should continue to improve mental health care spending in Colorado" -Elizabeth Lochhead, DU Clarion, 4/30/18
Therefore, more funding for mental health and substance abuse services is itself a possible way to spend more efficiently. Yes, this will likely require an increase in sales tax, but taxpayers are already spending for high numbers of emergency room visits. Beyond this, more support for those dealing with mental illness and addiction is important for the well-being of any community. Mental illness affects people of all incomes and circumstances, but it is also of the major causes of homelessness, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, and there are over 5,000 homeless people in Denver (this comes from 2017’s Point-in-Time survey, which acknowledges it is a low estimate due to undercounting).
"Denver voters could decide on sales tax for mental health, addiction" -Joey Bunch, Colorado Politics, 4/5/18
“I think the most tragic part of it all is that people who know they need help can’t get it,” said Herod, who has worked extensively on the issue in the statehouse. Robert Clark, the president and CEO of the Mental Health Center of Denver, said 1 in 5 people in the city are dealing with a mental health or substance-abuse issue.

“Everybody knows somebody who’s dealing with this problem,” Clark said. “What we want is for the door to be wide-open for anybody to get the help they need.

"Caring4Denver Campaign Aims To Fund Mental Health Programs" -Mark Ackerman, CBS 4 News, 4/5/18
State lawmaker Leslie Herod, a Democrat representing Denver, is appealing directly to City of Denver voters to help people with mental health and substance abuse problems.

Standing on the west steps of the state Capitol on Thursday, members of the group Caring4Denver said “we can’t rely on Washington” or Colorado lawmakers to fix this problem.

"Proposed Sales Tax Would Fund Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment" -Ana Campbell, Westword, 4/5/18
Resources to treat mental-health issues and substance abuse are woefully limited in Colorado.

One in every ten residents lives in a place with little or no access to medication-assisted substance-abuse treatment, while across the state, communities both rural and urban struggle with an ever-expanding opioid epidemic. Treatment for mental-health issues is so scarce, more patients in Colorado must go out of network to find doctors than do patients in most other states. And last year, Arapahoe House, the state’s largest drug-and-alcohol treatment center, closed after more than forty years.

"Denver sales tax hike would raise millions for mental health care, substance abuse treatment" -Jesse Paul, Denver Post, 4/5/18

Backers of the effort, including Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, the Mental Health Center of Denver and Mental Health Colorado, say it’s a necessary step to create a sustainable way to help struggling people in Denver and identify ways to promote well-being. The group says polling has shown that Denverites would overwhelmingly support such a sales tax increase.

"Group Petitions For Sales Tax Increase To Solve City Problems" -CBS 4 Denver, 4/4/18
Mental health, substance abuse and affordable housing groups have said for years that resources in Denver are limited. A group called Caring for Denver wants that to change. They are proposing raising the sales tax to pay for such services. The tax increase would amount to approximately 25 cents on a $100 purchase and could mean $45 million every year for those programs.
"Denver tax proposal would raise $45 million per year for mental health, housing, addiction" -Andrew Kenney, Denverite, 4/5/18
The Mental Health Center of Denver is partnering with state Rep. Leslie Herod to campaign for a half-billion dollars of new spending on mental health, addiction services and housing over the next decade.

They want local voters to decide whether to raise city sales taxes by 25 cents per $100 of spending on restaurant meals, consumer goods and more. The hike is expected to generate about $45 million in its first year.

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