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Caring for Denver Foundation in the news.

Mental Health Center of Denver on rising health crisis in Denver - Fox 31 Denver, 9/15/2021

Fox 31 Denver

Mental Health Center of Denver on rising health crisis in Denver

 Death by suicide among young people is a rising health crisis in Denver, in fact, Denver is outpacing the national statistics by nearly 2-to-1.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month and Carl Clark with the Mental Health Center of Denver is introducing STAY SAFE, a new and intensive suicide prevention program specifically developed to help address this alarming trend.

STAY SAFE, created with funds from the Caring for Denver Foundation is for Denver county youths ages 12-19 who have experienced a recent suicide attempt or severe suicide ideation. . STAY SAFE Partnership offers therapy, psychiatry, medication, case management and family support for two to four hours per week for approximately four to six weeks.

Mental Health Center of Denver is also highlighting its existing suicide prevention resources and promoting the science of well-being to help keep youth safe.

Mental Health Center of Denver launches new suicide prevention program - 9NEWS, 9/5/2021

9NEWS Denver

By Jennifer Campbell-Hicks

Mental Health Center of Denver launches new suicide prevention program

The Mental Health Center of Denver launched its STAY SAFE partnership at the start of National Suicide Prevention Week.

DENVER — As National Suicide Prevention Week begins, the Mental Health Center of Denver is starting a program to support teens and youth.

The Supporting Teens and Youth through Safety and Family Empowerment, or STAY SAFE, Partnership is an intensive suicide prevention program for youths ages 12-19 who have experienced a recent suicide attempt or severe suicidal ideation, the center said.

The center said it’s the first program of its kind in Colorado.

“The availability of inpatient services, as well as intensive services after hospital discharges, has decreased in recent years. This shortage can make accessing care difficult,” said Bonnie Graham, program manager with the center’s child and family services. “That’s why we want to make sure people are aware of suicide prevention information and resources we offer for both critical and less urgent situations.”

STAY SAFE offers a variety of services for youth and families, including therapy, psychiatry, medication, case management and family support. Intensive services are provided for an average of two to four hours a week for four to six weeks, the center said.

The partnership was created with funds from the Caring for Denver Foundation.

 

Task force: Denver should spend $55 million from American Rescue Plan Act funds on public safety priorities - Denver Gazette, 9/3/2021

Denver Gazette

By: Julia Cardi

 

Task force: Denver should spend $55 million from American Rescue Plan Act funds on public safety priorities

STAR responders

The task force created to make recommendations for overhauling policing and public safety in Denver wants the city to use about $55 million in federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund six of its core priorities.

The task force released 112 recommendations in May. Many of these focus on public safety initiatives that reduce the roles of traditional law enforcement and address historical harms that policing and the criminal legal system may cause communities of color and people living in poverty. 

The funding recommendations are “a good road map for utilizing funds that doesn’t involve giving officers more guns, more bullets and more bodies on the streets,” said Dr. Robert Davis, the head of the task force.

Denver will receive $308 million total from the American Rescue Plan Act. The city received $154 million in July, and the second installment will come in 2022.

The task force’s investment recommendations include:

  • $30 million to create an Office of Neighborhood Safety that would oversee all public safety initiatives not led by law enforcement.
  • $2 million in discharge planning services for people leaving incarceration.
  • $10 million to expand community-based treatment.
  • $5.3 million additional funding for the Office of the Independent Monitor, the agency that serves as a watchdog for Denver’s police and sheriff departments. The task force recommends a guaranteed appropriation for the monitor’s office that equals at least 2% of the total budgets of the agencies it investigates.
  • $3 million to expand behavioral health co-responder programs and the Support Team Assisted Response program.
  • $3 million for creating civilian teams to respond to non-behavioral health calls for service, including housing instability calls, traffic violations and noise complaints. The task force’s report makes recommendations to minimize unnecessary interactions with law enforcement and the criminal legal system.

“Each of these investments exactly fit into the mission of the ARP as they simultaneously increase access to public health resources and economic recovery for people most disparately impacted by the pandemic,” says a news release sent Wednesday.

City Council in July approved $1 million in funding, coupled with a request for $1.4 million from the Caring for Denver Foundation, to help expand the STAR program’s operations to seven days a week and respond to calls citywide.

The STAR program pairs paramedics with mental health professionals as response teams for low-level, nonviolent situations instead of sending police officers. The program has garnered widespread support in Denver since it launched in June 2020, and according to a recent presentation to City Council, none of the more than 1,600 calls STAR has responded to have led to arrests or involved a public safety risk that required police.

The program is a complement to – though separate from – the city’s established co-responder program that pairs police officers with mental health clinicians to respond to calls involving people who suffer from mental illness or substance use issues.

“Within the context of additional investment, I don’t think there is a challenge about what to do with the money [for STAR]; how to use the money to serve the public, because the City and County of Denver has demonstrated a sophistication about co-responder programs,” said Dr. Marjorie Lewis, a licensed behavioral health professional who serves as a liaison between the task force and City Council.

A spokesperson for Mayor Michael Hancock said the city will set a process for determining how to spend the second round of American Rescue Plan Act funding closer to when Denver receives the second half of the money in 2022. It likely will include community input for how to use the money, said Mike Strott in an email.

“We welcome any recommendations from the community and community organizations on how to use this funding to support and sustain our recovery from this pandemic,” he said.

Davis recognizes the American Rescue Plan money provides only a temporary funding mechanism, but he believes it would be a valuable stopgap to make time for the city to rethink how it funds public safety long term.

“This buys us time to begin to figure out how to readjust our budget to prioritize those things that are most important,” Davis said

STAR Program In Denver Expands To Respond To Calls Seven Days A Week - CBS 4 Denver, 8/31/2021

CBS 4 Denver

By Jennifer McRae

 

STAR Program In Denver Expands To Respond To Calls Seven Days A Week

DENVER (CBS4) – The program that started out as just a pilot is expanding. The Support Team Assisted Response or STAR program was started last year as a way for a mental health professional and a paramedic to respond to low-level calls instead of a police officer.

(credit: STAR Program)

STAR is an alternative 911 response program to those who are experiencing mental health, depression, poverty, homelessness and/or substance misuse challenges. The program has had a successful one-year pilot.

The STAR team is trained to de-escalate situations and connect individuals in distress with appropriate services. In partnership with the Mental Health Center of Denver, Denver Health Paramedic Division, and the Denver Department of Public Safety, DDPHE will expand the program to respond to calls city-wide between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. seven days per week.

So far, the program has completed more than 1,600 calls since June 2020, and 33% of those calls involved a transport to a support option in the community like a shelter or detox.

(credit: CBS)

Mental health treatment was recommended in 27% of the calls and 7% of those were reconnected to care. The average call time was less than a half-hour, about 5 minutes faster than a typical police response on the same type of call.

“We know that alternative response works. It works at getting people the help they truly need, and it works at keeping our officers focused on preventing crime. It’s a fundamental issue of equity in the pursuit of justice,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said in a statement. “Denver has also become a national leader in alternative police response, and we’re committed to staying on this path.”

(credit: CBS)

The STAR expansion will receive $1 million from the City’s supplemental fund, approved by City Council in July, and $1.4 million from the Caring For Denver Foundation, awarded earlier this month, in addition to the originally budgeted $1.4 million in the 2021 budget.

The STAR pilot has been successful at delivering behavioral health services to people in need,” said Bob McDonald, DDPHE Executive Director and Public Health Administrator for the City of Denver, in a statement. “This innovative approach – meeting people where they are, with the right services, at the right time – is a game-changer for Denver. We are excited to expand these services throughout the City.”

Denver’s STAR program, sending mental health pros on certain calls instead of police officers, is about to get bigger - Denverite, 8/30/2021

Denverite

By Esteban L. Hernandez

 

Denver’s STAR program, sending mental health pros on certain calls instead of police officers, is about to get bigger

The program — still resulting in zero arrests and no calls to Denver police for backup when deployed — has the support to expand.

Denver's STAR van is parked outside of the Denver Rescue MIssion at Park Avenue and Lawrence Street. Feb. 12, 2021.

Denver’s STAR van is parked outside of the Denver Rescue Mission at Park Avenue and Lawrence Street. Feb. 12, 2021. Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

    The program sending mental health professionals instead of cops to certain calls in Denver will expand starting next month, adding at least one additional van with clinicians to take up calls around the city. With new funding, the intention is to cover the entire city, growing far beyond its original 6-square-mile limit in central Denver.

    The Support Team Assisted Response program, better known as STAR, will be operated jointly by the Department of Public Safety, where it was originally managed as a pilot program, and the city’s Department of Public Health and Environment, which now has oversight on STAR’s operations and budget.

    Hiring to expand STAR is underway. Jeff Holliday, a manager with the behavioral health division of the public health department, said during a presentation on the program to City Council members on Monday a new STAR contract is being worked out. The Mental Health Center of Denver was the only applicant for a new contract to run the program, so they were awarded the contract from DDPHE. Mental Health Center of Denver will provide clinical staff, along with the Denver Paramedic Division.

    In the meantime, the original contract from the safety department was extended to make sure STAR keeps running through January, at which point DDPHE will take over the new contract being worked out at the moment.

    Simply put, city officials believe expanding the program will help more people around the city. It would allow the program to provide an EMS-style dispatch to get STAR vans around Denver.

    STAR Operations Manager Carleigh M. Sailon told Denverite on Monday the city’s full expansion goal is to have four vans with six teams providing coverage seven days a week, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

    For now, two vans and three teams (there’s a night shift and day shift team) will start with these expanded hours next month.

    “I think the entire city is going to benefit because we are not tying these vans to a specific location,” Sailon said. “They are going to go where they’re needed.”

    The city is also establishing a 15-person STAR Community Advisory Committee to make sure the city gets feedback about how it can improve from the same people who helped establish it last year.

    City officials believe the added money will also allow more culturally appropriate services for certain areas of the city, including some of the city’s most ethnically and racially diverse neighborhoods. Getting this kind of service was a concern among the people who advocated for the program’s creation.

    The highest volume of potential STAR calls came predominately from the city’s downtown, and areas in neighborhoods like East Colfax and Montbello, and along the Federal Boulevard corridor, according to the city’s own analysis.

    Mental Health Center of Denver case worker Chris Richardson stands outside of Denver's STAR van, which is parked by the Denver Rescue MIssion at Park Avenue and Lawrence Street. Feb. 12, 2021.

    Mental Health Center of Denver case worker Chris Richardson stands outside of Denver’s STAR van, which is parked by the Denver Rescue MIssion at Park Avenue and Lawrence Street. Feb. 12, 2021. Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

    The program has been lauded for its ability to keep people from ending up arrested or in jail. It launched in Denver last year amid nationwide protests against police violence and racism prompted by George Floyd’s murder. By all accounts, the program has been successful in limiting interactions between cops and people in crisis.

    “STAR is awesome,” said Councilmember Chris Hinds, summing up how most council members said they felt about the program during Monday’s presentation.

    Not everything’s rosy though. The folks who started the program have been critical about its direction since many said they felt blindsided by STAR’s proposed expansion, which was made public earlier this year. Vinnie Cervantes, who runs Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, said on Monday said the advisory committee, which he will serve on, addresses some of their concerns.

    “So the fact that we finally put it together is a good step but it’s one that’s a bit late,” Cervantes said, adding, “I still don’t know how much faith I have in the city listening to us.”

    Cervantes said he’s also worried about the city only getting one bid for the contract to run STAR.

    He and other want to make sure the city does provide culturally sensitive responses, including ensuring diversity among STAR staff who respond to calls and for the places where people get referred to by the staff.

    According to data provided by DDPHE, the program has responded to 1,610 incidents since launching, a majority of which were for trespassing and welfare check calls.

    That includes zero arrests and no calls to Denver police for backup. Sailon said during Monday’s meeting cops have never been called due to safety concerns for STAR staff. She said there were two instances where Denver police were called only to provide information to someone STAR was treating.

    The Support Team Assisted Response van. June 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

    The Support Team Assisted Response van. June 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

    At least 476 people the program contacted were people experiencing homelessness who were living in encampments. Out of this group, at least 111 people were connected to services with agencies like the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and the Gathering Place, while another 98 people were connected with a Mental Health Center of Denver case manager for a follow-up.

    Some 33 percent of calls led to people getting transported to overnight shelters or other agencies helping people experiencing homelessness by STAR. That figure also includes taking people to parks or public areas, walk-in crisis centers and detox. Some folks got a ride home.

    Council members want to make sure the program stays funded and keeps expanding after this year. Holliday said he didn’t know the exact budget request for the program for the 2022 fiscal year, though he estimated the program will cost between $3.4 million to $3.8 million a year to operate.

    For now, the program is paid for by $1.4 million from the city’s 2021 budget, an additional $1 million from the city’s contingency fund approved this summer, and $1.4 million from Caring For Denver, a foundation that gets money from sales taxes to pay for mental health and substance use programs in the city.

    15 months into Denver's STAR program, no calls directed to civilian-led teams have led to arrests - The Denver Gazette, 8/30/2021

    The Denver Gazette

    By Julia Cardi

    15 months into Denver’s STAR program, no calls directed to civilian-led teams have led to arrests

    STAR calls map
    A map presented to a Denver City Council committee on Aug. 30, 2021 show the geographic concentrations of calls sent to the Support Team Assisted Response program, which sends pairs of paramedics and mental health clinicians to low-level, nonviolent situations instead of police.

       

      A little more than a year into Denver’s program designed to redirect emergency calls more suited for social services than police, none of those redirected calls have resulted in arrests .

      The civilian-centered Support Team Assisted Response program sends pairs of mental health clinicians and paramedics to low-level, nonviolent situations after a 911 dispatcher screens calls and determines the appropriate response. STAR has responded to more than 1,600 calls since it began operating in June 2020, according to data presented Monday to Denver City Council’s Budget and Policy Committee.

      Of those responses, 476 homeless people were contacted in encampments and 111 people were connected with services through the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, The Gathering Place and the Department of Human Services. Social worker and addiction counselor Carleigh Sailon said although 45% of people contacted were not yet ready to consider social services for their situations, 33% of calls resulted in transport to homeless shelters, crisis centers or other services.

      Sailon now manages STAR’s operations and formerly worked at the Mental Health Center of Denver, with which the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment is currently negotiating a contract for STAR’s operations.

      Amid more than a year of heightened debates about how broad a role police should have beyond strictly law enforcement, the STAR program has stood out as a rare instance of reducing its role that police and those who push for reform agree on.

      “I realized that there are different definitions about what defunding the police means. And I think that this conversation is at the core of what defunding the police means,” said District 10 Councilmember Chris Hinds, one of STAR’s most vocal supporters, speaking to the complexity of meanings that even supporters of the movement ascribe to it.

      The program has received $2.4 million for a currently planned expansion of STAR between a supplemental allocation from the city budget and the Caring for Denver Foundation.

      The planned expansion of STAR means the program will provide responses to calls citywide and expand its operating times up to 16 hours per day, seven days a week, said Jeff Holliday, who manages the Office of Behavioral Health Strategies at the Department of Public Health and Environment.

      Sailon added that so far, 911 dispatch has relied on seven designated call “nature codes” to determine which calls are appropriate for a STAR response. She said the hope is the program expands to use more details of each individual call to decide whether STAR should respond.

      Sailon said calls for trespassing, welfare checks and assists have so far been the three most common situations STAR has responded to.

      “We will continue to use data to drive the expansion and make sure that we’re doing so in an equitable way so that the community has access to civilian response and resource connection,” she said.

      The Department of Public Health and Environment is negotiating a contract with the Mental Health Center of Denver for STAR’s operations, and the program is in the process of moving out of the umbrella of the police department.

      The presentation included a map showing the STAR responses tracked so far are heavily concentrated around downtown Denver and surrounding neighborhoods. Sailon said the program responds to a high volume of calls along East Colfax Avenue, South Federal Boulevard and the Montbello area.

      District 6 Councilmember Paul Kashmann pointed out the map suggests there isn’t a need for STAR in other areas of the city, which he said he’s sure isn’t true.

      Holliday agreed, and said data collection so far has relied solely on 911 calls. He said one intention of STAR’s expansion is to include consideration of more ways to access the program because of the stigma attached to calling 911.

      “If there’s a reason that we have cops in every corner of the city, [for] that same reason we should have STAR,” Kashmann said.

      Tracking data will be one role of a 15-member advisory committee for STAR designed to work with the Department of Public Health and Environment. Holliday said the committee’s tasks will also include outreach to create community awareness of STAR and review feedback on the program.

      The committee includes members representing each City Council district, who can serve up to two three-year terms.

      The committee’s first meeting will take place on Sept. 14 at Carla Madison Recreation Center and virtually.

       

      Denver to expand STAR program for responding to mental health 911 calls - KDVR Fox 31 News, 8/30/2021

      KDVR Fox 31 News

      By Lanie Lee Cook

      Denver to expand STAR program for responding to mental health 911 calls

      DENVER (KDVR) — A year-old Denver program that removes police from some 911 calls involving mental health or substance use will be expanded to seven days a week.

      The Support Team Assisted Response program — STAR for short — responds to certain 911 calls with a paramedic and a mental health clinician who are trained to de-escalate situations and to connect people with services that can help them.

      “We’re excited to be a part of a team that provides resource options to help keep those experiencing behavioral health events from unnecessary pathways through the criminal justice system or the emergency department,” said Dave Edwards, Denver Health Paramedic Division assistant director of clinical performance. “We’re redefining solutions for these events and people to truly address their underlying needs.”

      The program will now be expanded to the entire city, seven days a week between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

      The Mental Health Center of Denver is now hiring licensed clinicians to support the expansion.

      “The intent of STAR is to send the right response, not a one-size-fits-all response,” said Chris Richardson, the Mental Health Center of Denver’s associate director of criminal justice. “People call 911 for an array of reasons and it’s not always something that involves risk or a criminal element. If the STAR van can help someone in crisis and that frees up police to handle a robbery or domestic violence call, then that’s an incredible success.”

      Denver City Council in July approved $1 million from the city’s supplemental fund to expand the program. Another $1.4 million comes from the Caring for Denver Foundation, which is funded by a 2018 voter-approved 0.25% sales tax raise to address issues with mental health and addiction.

      1,400 calls: no arrests, no injuries, no police

      The year-old pilot version of the STAR program started in June 2020 and focused on calls in downtown Denver five days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

      In its first year, STAR handled 1,400 emergency calls, of which there were zero arrests, no injuries and no need for police backup, according to DDPHE.

      DDPHE said these are some of the program’s statistics to date:

      • “Over 1600 calls completed”
      • “33% of calls involved a transport to a support option in the community such as a shelter, organization, walk-in center, detox, etc.”
      • “Mental health treatment was recommended to 27% of contacts and 7% of contacts were reconnected to care”
      • “Average call time was 29 minutes, which is 5 minutes faster than a typical police response on the same type of call”
      • “Approximately 30% of the calls handled by the STAR pilot were referred by police who arrived first on the scene and called to request STAR to handle the situation”

      How to call the STAR program

      In addition to connecting with STAR via 911, Denver residents can request STAR by calling 720-913-7827 (STAR) or by calling the non-emergency number, 720-913-2000.

      Caring for Denver Foundation Awards $8.4 Million to Redirect People with Mental Health and Substance Misuse Crisis Away from the Criminal Justice System - News Release, 8/25/2021

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

      August 25, 2021

      Caring for Denver Foundation Awards $8.4 Million to Redirect People with Mental Health and Substance Misuse Crisis Away from the Criminal Justice System.

      Denver, CO – Caring for Denver will distribute $8.4 million to 13 community organizations and City of Denver agencies to prevent individuals struggling with substance misuse and mental health distress from entering or reentering the criminal justice system. The organizations are leading efforts to reduce entry and recidivism, and increase post-release supports by building stronger City partnerships, providing culturally relevant and community-led supports, and increasing housing stability.

      Caring for Denver Foundation is publicly funded by City sales tax revenue, and was founded by Denver residents to advance community-authored solutions for mental health and substance misuse needs in Denver. Denver residents identified Alternatives to Jail as one of Caring for Denver’s funding priorities, noting the need for increased diversion opportunities, more emphasis on and access to services, and better connected systems for justice, health and housing.

      With this investment, Caring for Denver aims to:

      1. Successfully divert people with mental health and substance misuse issues away from the criminal justice system
      2. Actively engage those involved in or released from the criminal justice system with resources available to meet them where they are in recovery and live healthy lives in the community
      3. Improve mental health and/or reduce substance misuse by those placed-at-risk of engagement or engaged with the criminal justice system
      4. Reduce recidivism of persons with mental health and substance misuse issues
      5. Reduce disparities in mental health and substance misuse outcomes

      This is the second round of funding Caring for Denver foundation has invested in their Alternatives to Jail priority area, and this work builds on knowledge and feedback from current grantees and partners in this space.

      Grantees include:

      • CrossPurpose
      • The Empowerment Program
      • Heavy Hands Heavy Hearts Foundation
      • Mile High WorkShop
      • Movement 5280
      • ParadigmONE
      • Sims-Fayola Foundation
      • The Storytellers Project
      • Tribe Recovery Homes
      • City and County of Denver – Department of Public Health & Environment (STAR program)
      • City and County of Denver – Denver Police Department (Co-Responders program)
      • City and County of Denver – District Attorney’s Office
      • City and County of Denver – Office of the Municipal Public Defender

      About Caring for Denver Foundation

      Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action. Caring for Denver has funded more than $51.2 million in the areas of alternatives to jail, care provision, community-centered solutions, youth, and special initiatives. To learn more, visit caring4denver.org.

      About Lorez Meinhold

      Lorez Meinhold serves as the Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation. She brings over twenty 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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Foundation Board.

       

       

      Widespread, Community-Informed Support - OUT FRONT Magazine, 8/2021

      OUT FRONT Magazine

      By

      Caring for Denver: Widespread, Community-Informed Support

      caring-for-denver

      As the Denver community pushes forward in this new stage of the pandemic, the need for community services and resources is more dire than ever.

      Representative Leslie Herod saw this need to do better for our local communities, in relation to mental health, substance misuse, and structural issues. The idea was simple: for every $100 spent in Denver, put 25 cents toward addressing these needs.

      The ballot initiative passed, and Caring For Denver was born. Caring For Denver is a nonprofit that works to give away grants to support programs that have an impact on Denver communities in need.

      Executive Director Lorez Meinhold says part of Caring For Denver’s model is meeting people where they are, creating alternative pathways for folks who have touched the justice system, and reflecting the unique cultural needs, values, and beliefs of the community.

      “It creates a significant and an enduring investment over $30 million a year toward mental health and substance misuse, and we really have a frame of, community authored and learning driven,” Meinhold says. “So many times, we build systems for systems’ sake rather than really thinking about the person. How do we put the person at the center of everything we do?”

      Caring For Denver is moving to three funding cycles a year for organizations in need. To understand the current needs in the area, they talk to community members before making a call for proposal. It is typically open for about a month, and during that time, Caring For Denver also likes to open up pathways of communication, like Facebook live events, so local organizations can ask questions.

      Their community reviewers go through the applicants, moving forward to a staff review, and finally, Caring For Denver will inform applicants within four months on whether or not they receive funding for that funding cycle.

      OFM was able to catch up with some of these organizations about how these grants have allowed them to elevate their work.

      Queer Asterisk

      Queer Asterisk started out as a small, grassroots, nonprofit mental health organization and counseling center, as a space for queer, trans, and gender-nonconforming people to receive mental healthcare without explaining or working around their identities. They also looked to create an alternative to the gatekeeping individuals sometimes experience when seeking letters to begin hormone replacement therapy.

      “So the idea is, how amazing would it be if folks could sit down with a provider who is also trans, who can happily bear witness to their story of what their identity is, what they want their transition to be like, and then also provide the necessary legal support in order to make that happen,” Program Director RP Whitmore-Bard says.

      Whitmore-Bard says the pandemic has drastically exacerbated the need for these services: “There are not enough providers or not enough facilities to meet the need at this moment, largely due to the pandemic,” they say.

      Queer Asterisk introduced their outpatient program through grants from Caring For Denver, which allows folks to come in for their therapy appointments as needed, with the option to attend additional drop-in groups providing more supportive care. They hope to be able to open the program in September.

      Whitmore-Bard says another benefit of this support is building the infrastructure for the program and expanding into more creative arts, like starting a queer artists’ residency to introduce dance therapy, drama therapy, and other expressive arts practices.

      “As historically disenfranchised people, we freely recognized the importance of having therapeutic programming that’s different from the medical model that many of us have experienced before, that doesn’t necessarily serve our best interest,” Whitmore-Bard says. “We’re really emphasizing an enrichment and a community and a learning approach … so that the youth who go through our programs don’t necessarily consider themselves to be the problem, but rather can kind of point to and look at larger systems at work, that are creating distress for them, and then giving them just creative tools and resources to be able to, to not only cope but also honestly to like thrive and be leaders.”

      For more information on Queer Asterisk, visit their website at queerasterisk.com.

      Youth Seen

      Youth Seen began when Founder and Executive Director Tara Jae saw the lack of mental health and wellness resources for queer and trans people of color, specifically Black folks, in the community. Jae says oftentimes therapy in communities of color can be more stigmatized than in mainstream culture, in that many therapy frameworks are still very colonized and white-centered.

      “In order for us to heal, we need to be able to decolonize that, break that down, and meet individuals where they are,” Jae says. “So, therapy is not the one-on-one talking; it is however folks really need it.”

      Jae also co-created Denver’s Black Pride event, and they say that this type of community building, where people are able to come together, see each other, and see representation, is essential to Youth Seen’s approach.

      Youth Seen was able to focus more on the needs of trans and nonbinary Black folks through the Caring For Denver grant. They are specifically focusing on acquiring lands to have a space specifically for queer and trans Black communities to retreat and heal, without worrying about how other people might show up in a space that isn’t meant for them.

      “We need that space,” Jae says. “We need an organization that we can come in and, like, tear things up, in the sense of, like, ‘This is what’s going on; this is how I’m feeling,’ being able to be seen and then also being able to go back out to a community, be representation, and have that stigma around mental health, and what that means, broken down, so that people aren’t hesitant in asking for that support,”

      Jae says they have been very strict around Youth Seen’s boundaries when it comes to taking space in the community, and resounding response from the community they serve is “thank you,” for building that space and providing a place to be heard.

      The majority of Youth Seen’s funding comes from organizations like Caring For Denver, and Jae says they appreciate Caring For Denver’s specific approach.

      “When we’re talking about equity, and the way that they are making sure that they are walking next to you, instead of just saying, ‘Here’s some money,’” Jae says, “… they will drop whatever they’re doing to be able to have (deeper) conversations, and it’s because of those relationships, and the way Caring For Denver is doing things, and how they are restructuring and, for lack of a better word, decolonizing how philanthropy is working—that’s what actually makes us more successful. My hope is that other foundations will follow them.”

      To learn more about Youth Seen, visit youthseen.org.

      Envision:You

      LGBTQ people often face discrimination, violence, and poor mental health outcomes when they seek support for their behavioral health or treatment for substance use disorders. Envision:You was co-founded in 2018 by Steven Haden with that truth in mind, addressing the unique needs of LGBTQ people and working to support, educate, and empower people in the community as they take the steps they need to take care of their health.

      To help support their mission, Envision:You works to educate the community and raise public awareness around LGBTQ behavioral health concerns through statewide, community-informed initiatives and promotes likeminded policy and legislation. Envision:You also looks to help enhance resources by collaborating with other nonprofits, government agencies, and institutions of higher learning to promote access to resources and advance research, education, and training.

      “We know that when the community works together to address mental health concerns, individuals are able to move from a place of surviving to thriving. When that happens, we all benefit,” Haden says.

      Envision:You used funding from Caring For Denver specifically to support their How to Have the Talk campaign and their LGBTQ+ Behavioral Health Provider Training Program.

      How to Have the Talk is a public awareness and social media campaign that helps to open up the conversation of having “the talk” when reaching out to someone in need of behavioral health services and understanding the challenges that the LGBTQ community faces. The funding allowed Envision:You to increase their advertising capabilities around the campaign to reach more people. For example, Envision:You sent out postcards and pocket-sized tip cards to members of the LGBTQ community, behavioral health providers, pharmacists, and community clinics statewide, which walk through the essential steps in approaching these conversations about behavioral health.

      Envision:You’s Behavioral Health Provider Training Program is a multi-phase, in-person, and online training program with three program levels. It was designed to help registered and licensed mental health clinicians, addiction counselors, and certified peer specialists to develop new skills and knowledge to enhance the delivery of quality, culturally relevant, and affirming behavioral health interventions for LGBTQ people.

      “We are fortunate to have developed a meaningful relationship with Caring for Denver Foundation. The initiative, one of the first in the nation, prioritizes spending in support of mental health programming in the City and County of Denver. We are grateful the Foundation has prioritized funding to ensure communities like LGBTQ+ folks, which have increased risk factors and decreased access to care, are an important area of focus,” Haden says.

      To learn more about Envision:You, visit envision-you.org. To learn more about the How to Have the Talk campaign, visit how-to-have-the-talk.org.

      For more on the training program, visit
      envision-you.org/lgbtq-behavioral-health-training.

      The Delores Project

      The Delores Project has a storied history, initially operating as an overnight, emergency shelter. They now boast more than 60 beds for unaccompanied women and transgender folks across the gender spectrum and 35 units of supportive housing, where they provide case management for folks who are chronically homeless (five years or more) and living with a disability or health challenge.

      They also now operate 24/7: once you have a bed with them, you can stay as long as you need it.

      With COVID-relief funds, they were able to launch a rehousing program in November and have since rehoused 38 people, forming an aftercare program providing at least a year of regular check-ins and support.

      “We’re just trying to make sure that we’re catching the folks who would otherwise fall through the cracks,” says Robin Wood-Mason, director of development and communications. “It’s pretty easy for someone who’s got moved into an apartment, six months down the road, having an issue like your washing machine breaks or your dishwasher dies, and you spun out because you don’t have the support or know how to negotiate with your landlord to get things taken care of.”

      Wood-Mason says that the pandemic has also pushed for the City and County of Denver to do more, faster, and helped The Delores Project to move toward a 24/7 model, prompting more conversations about shelter capacity and what shelter programming in Denver looks like.

      “It’s been an exciting catalyst in a time that a lot of folks are struggling, you know, we’ve actually seen our agency budget has grown significantly,” Wood-Mason says. “We hear anecdotes now from folks coming into the shelter that were on the street, as you come to The Dolores Project, we’re gonna make you work on getting into housing and then staying stable, you know, it’s no longer the stay here for two weeks, bounce to another shelter and then come back, you know, we’re gonna push you to get to a better place in your life.”

      He says that Caring For Denver’s funding has helped The Delores Project especially in investing in their staff. Because of this funding, they can ensure that none of their frontline staff are making less than an annualized $40,000 a year.

      Looking forward, Wood-Mason says they are eager to continue building The Delores Project, especially their rehousing program and opening up the conversation to landlords around destigmatizing people coming out of shelters.

      “What does it really mean to have lost your way and access shelter services? And how we can really lean into the fact that unhoused folks are—they’re still someone’s kid; they’re still someone’s sibling; and they’re our friends and our neighbors,” Wood-Mason says. “Just because they’ve had to access a service like ours doesn’t mean they’re bad people, and they can make perfectly fine tenants. We’re here to support them and help them live into being good, respectable tenants.”

      For more on The Delores Project, visit their website at thedeloresproject.org.

      The Gathering Place

      The Gathering Place (TGP) has been around for 35 years, dedicated to serving women, trans people, and their children experiencing poverty and homelessness in the Denver metro area.

      They use a substance abuse and mental health services administration recovery model, which recognizes that recovery is not just about substance misuse or mental health, but recovering from any kind of trauma or barriers leading to a fulfilling, self-directed life. They work to meet the basic needs of folks, alongside long-term needs like housing, comprehensive wellness support, and employment assistance. Members are never charged for programs and services.

      TGP President Julia Stewart says equality and equity lie at the heart of TGP’s work, while ensuring they foster a supportive space for people who may be denied services and support, or don’t feel safe elsewhere, because of their gender identity and/or gender presentation.

      Caring For Denver’s funding was crucial in the creation of TGP’s peer wellness navigator role. The role went to Sky Lee and involves designing and launching a peer support program, conducting outreach across the community, working with program leadership to develop standardized assessments and tracking systems, and developing rapport with TGP members.

      “One of the wonderful things about the program is how Sky designed the program assessment—people are asked to identify strengths, supports they have in place, and also goals they want to work on. It’s a lovely, strengths-based, collaborative approach that is really member-driven. Sky often was a ‘listening ear’… this helped build trust and to transition to actionable steps towards recovery.”

      In late-June, TGP shared the passing of Sky. Stewart says TGP wants to highlight his work and positive impact on the community, emphasizing that the Peer Recovery Program is a result of Sky’s dedication.

      “Sky was brilliant and uniquely qualified to be a peer navigator, as he had lived experience with homelessness and substance abuse. His lived experience enabled him to connect with TGP’s members in a way that others of us could not, and that is why having peer support in this program is so vital. Sky breathed life into this program and brought joy into every room that he entered and heart that he touched. While his life was more than his work at TGP, the magnitude of his efforts will be forever felt in this community.”

      TGP will continue to offer the program, and the work will look very similar. They are looking to strengthen the support to their peer navigators in that role to better help the person in that role feel safe sharing their struggles and the resources they need in their own life.

      To support the work of TGP and learn more, visit tgpdenver.org.

      To learn more about Caring For Denver’s community-informed solutions and get involved, visit caring4denver.org.

       

      Garcia, Garnett Appoint Experts to ARPA Affordable Housing and Behavioral Health Subpanels - EIN Presswire, 7/26/2021

      EIN Presswire

      Garcia, Garnett Appoint Experts to ARPA Affordable Housing and Behavioral Health Subpanels

      DENVER, CO – Senate President Leroy Garcia and Speaker Alec Garnett on Friday appointed subject matter experts and representatives of local governments and nonprofits to the subpanels advising the task forces established under HB21-1329 and SB21-137, legislation which set aside $850 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds for housing and behavioral health. 

      The subpanels will work with the task forces to craft and examine policies to make housing more affordable, expand opportunities to build wealth through homeownership, address homelessness and improve access to mental health and substance use disorder services. 

      “As we work to address the housing crisis and improve the delivery of care for Coloradans with behavioral health needs, we need the expertise necessary to get to where we want to go,” said Senate President Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo)“The individuals we’ve appointed bring a wealth of knowledge to the table and will help us decipher how best to spend federal funds to support our efforts in the most efficient, meaningful and deliberate way possible. With this diverse team of experts, we will be able to make smart and thoughtful investments into our state as we continue to meet the needs of our communities and build a Colorado that works for everyone.” 

      “This broad and diverse group of people will help craft recommendations for how Colorado can use federal funds to make housing more affordable and improve access to behavioral health,” said Speaker Alec Garnett (D-Denver)“The experts I’ve appointed represent diverse communities, local governments and nonprofits across our state and have extensive experience working in housing and behavioral health. The investments we’ll make in these areas will not only grow our economy, they’ll help Colorado build back stronger, recover more equitably, and start to address some of the most pressing issues facing our communities.”  

      During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers worked collaboratively with Governor Polis to develop and advance the Colorado Comeback Roadmap to Building Back Stronger, which envisions investing nearly $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds to make housing more affordable and improve Colorado’s behavioral health system. HB21-1329 sets aside $400 million of ARPA funds for future housing efforts, and SB21-137 sets aside $450 million of ARPA funds for future behavioral health investments. 

      Under resolutions approved by the Executive Committee in June, the behavioral health and housing subpanels will consist of experts selected by the Speaker, President, and House and Senate Minority Leaders. The resolutions specify areas of expertise for each appointment. 

      The following individuals were appointed to the Affordable Housing Transformational Task Force Subpanel:

      • Chair, Brian Rossbert, Executive Director of Housing Colorado, an appointment by the president representing a nonprofit advocacy group with an expertise on low and moderate income housing issues;

      • Vice-Chair, Cathy Alderman, Chief Communications & Public Policy Officer of Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, an appointment by the speaker with expertise in homelessness, administering support to homeless individuals, or other relevant experience related to homelessness and continuum of care

      • Steven Cordova, Executive Director of the Tri-County Housing Authority (Bent, Crowley, Otero), an appointment by the speaker representing a local housing authority;

      • Kinsey Hasstedt, State & Local Policy Director, Enterprise Community Partners, an appointment by the speaker with expertise in nonprofit housing development;

      • Appointments by the speaker representing local governments: 

        • Tamara Pogue, Summit County Commissioner

        • Adam Paul, Mayor of the City of Lakewood

      • Tawny Peyton, Executive Director of Rocky Mountain Home Association, an appointment by the speaker representing an organization focused on the deployment of factory-built housing;

      • Aaron Miripol, President & CEO of Urban Land Conservancy, an appointment by the president representing a land trust;

      • Roberto Rey, Associate State Director of AARP Colorado, an appointment by the president with knowledge of developing affordable, accessible, integrated housing for people who are aging or have disabilities;

      • Wanda Harrison, Director of Residential Services at the Second Chance Center, an appointment by the president with expertise in homelessness, experience administering support to homeless individuals, or other relevant experience related to homelessness and continuum of care; and

      • Eric Leveridge, Strategic Research Analyst at Colorado Jobs with Justice, an appointment by the president representing workers.

      The following individuals were appointed to the Behavioral Health Transformational Task Force Subpanel: 

      • Chair, Vincent Atchity, President & CEO of Mental Health Colorado, an appointment by the speaker representing a statewide organization that develops and advocates for mental health policy;

      • Vice-Chair, Dr. Lesley Brooks, Chief of Addiction Medicine at SummitStone Health Partners, an appointment by the president representing behavioral health practitioners or providers;

      • Candie Burnham, Executive Director of Atlantis Community, Inc., an appointment by the speaker representing individuals, either patients or caregivers, with lived experience navigating the behavioral health care system;

      • Appointments by the speaker representing community-based organizations representing communities that experience disproportionate health impacts:

        • Nadine Bridges, Executive Director of One Colorado 

        • Ana Vizoso, Director of Behavioral Health at Servicios de La Raza, Inc. 

        • Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation

        • Harry Budisidharta, Executive Director of the Asian Pacific Development Center

      • Beauclarine Thomas, Legislative & Policy Advocate of Colorado Municipal League, an appointment by the speaker representing a local government representing a municipality; 

      • Heidi Williams, Director of Opioid Response Unit in the Department of Law, an appointment by the speaker representing the Department of Law, the Judicial Branch, or a member of the judiciary; 

      • Lisa Raville, Executive Director of Harm Reduction Action Center, an appointment by the president with knowledge of evidence-based harm reduction strategies;

      • Meghan Baker, Facilities Team Leader Attorney at Disability Law Colorado, an appointment by the president representing a disability advocacy or policy organization;

      • Terri Hurst, Policy Coordinator at Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, an appointment by the president with expertise in the needs of the criminal justice population;

      • José Esquibel, Associate Director of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, an appointment by the president from the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention;

      • Dr. Patrick Fox, an American Psychiatric Association Assembly Representative for the Colorado Psychiatric Society, an appointment by the president representing behavioral health practitioners or providers;

      • Heather Hankins, Chief Behavioral Health Officer at Health Solutions, an appointment by the president representing behavioral health practitioners or providers;

      • Colleen Casper, Executive Director of Colorado Nurses Association, an appointment by the president representing the behavioral health needs of frontline and low-income workers; and

      • Dr. Christian Thurstone, Medical Director of the Substance Abuse Treatment, Education and Prevention program at Denver Health, an appointment by the president representing a hospital that has demonstrated experience working with the behavioral health community or treating patients with complex behavioral health needs.

      The task forces will convene in early August for organizational meetings. The subpanels will then begin meeting to analyze and discuss policies for consideration by the task forces. The task forces will start convening regularly during the late fall to discuss policies and ultimately approve recommendations that will be included in a final report and sent to the legislature and Governor. The timelines for taskforce and sub-advisory panel meetings are flexible and intended to serve as a guideline.

      Denver’s pivot from police is gaining popularity nationwide - Axios Markets via Yahoo News, 7/21/2021

      Axios Markets via Yahoo News

      By

      Denver’s pivot from police is gaining popularity nationwide

      What started as a pilot program to reimagine policing primarily in downtown Denver is now expanding citywide and piquing interest across the country.

      Driving the news: The City Council this week voted to boost the STAR (Support Team Assisted Response) program by $1 million, on top of $1.4 million already allocated from the 2021 city budget.

      • The new funding will allow the program to grow from one van to four; increase its 16-hour operating days from five to seven; expand from one team to six; and serve all of Denver, not just high-demand neighborhoods.

      Flashback: The program first rolled out last June with funding from Caring for Denver, a foundation created by voters in 2019 that gives grants to programs that help people experiencing mental health and substance misuse issues.

      Why it matters: Amid nationwide scrutiny over police brutality, STAR — designed after a decades-old program in Eugene, Oregon — is proving to be a national model for major U.S. cities looking for new ways to handle 911 calls involving unarmed people in distress.

      How it works: 911 operators divert certain calls involving nonviolent crimes (like homelessness, trespassing and drug use) to social workers and mental health professionals.

      • The program frees up police officers to concentrate on solving violent crime while also easing certain situations that can escalate in the presence of an armed officer.

      Yes, but: Some advocates have voiced concern about the city’s management of the program, which they say should be staffed with “providers who share lived experiences and identities with Denver’s diverse population,” Denverite reports.

      By the numbers: Not a single one of the more than 1,300 calls the STAR team received last year required backup from police or led to an arrest, STAR clinician Chris Richardson told Axios.

      • About 65% of the van’s calls involve people experiencing homelessness.
      • STAR staff transferred 41% of the people they encountered to shelters, crisis centers or hospitals, according to a city report detailing the success of the program’s first six months.

      What they’re saying: “We’ve talked to over 100-some cities trying to steal any knowledge or ideas we have on how to start programs like this that are community-led,” Richardson says.

      • St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones and Democratic U.S. Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri visited Denver earlier this month to learn more about the program.

      What’s next: The expansion will mean serving more residential and suburban areas that may have different needs compared to the demographics of downtown Denver. Richardson says they’re looking into adding new roles accordingly.

      Mayor Tishaura Jones & Congresswoman Cori Bush To Visit Denver Star Program — Discuss New Approaches To Public Safety - RiverBender.com, 7/8/2021

      RiverBender.com

      Mayor Tishaura Jones & Congresswoman Cori Bush To Visit Denver Star Program — Discuss New Approaches To Public Safety

      ST. LOUIS, DENVER, CO – On Thursday, July 8, 2021, Mayor Tishaura Jones and Congresswoman Cori Bush will travel to Denver, Colorado to see firsthand the city’s public safety initiatives. The Mayor and Congresswoman will tour Denver’s Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) program, which redefines public safety by redirecting some 911 calls to mental health care professionals and social workers. Of the 1,351 calls STAR responded to over the last year, not one had to request backup from the Denver Police Department.

      Mayor Jones and Congresswoman Bush will be hosted by Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. The three elected officials will discuss models of public safety as it relates to alternatives to policing, COVID-19 vaccines, and social services for the unhoused.

      “I talk frequently about connecting the right professional to the right call so our police can focus on their main job: Solving violent crime,” said Mayor Tishaura O. Jones. “Through STAR, Denver has led the way in reimagining how we deploy and use police for the correct situations. I’m excited to see this program up-close and connect with Mayor Hancock on lessons we can bring back to St. Louis to get shots in arms, improve public safety and better support our unhoused neighbors.”

       

       

       

      “The People’s Response Act puts forward a vision for public safety in America that will save lives — and Denver’s STAR program is proving that this approach works,” said Congresswoman Cori Bush. “At a moment when St. Louis has led the nation in police killings for 7 consecutive years, we must look to proven strategies that will keep our communities safe. I’m grateful to Mayor Hancock for hosting me and Mayor Jones so that we can see firsthand the work that the People’s Response Act could fund. This visit is fundamental to our work of building a just and equitable St. Louis where we all can thrive.”

      “I’m honored to welcome Mayor Jones and Congresswoman Bush to Denver, and to share the successes we’ve had with our innovative models around alternative response and support systems for our residents experiencing homelessness,” said Mayor Hancock.

      STAR is a community response program made possible through collaboration between the Caring for Denver Foundation, Denver Police Department, Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD), Denver Health Paramedic Division, Denver 911, and community supports and resources. STAR provides person-centric mobile crisis response to community members who are experiencing problems related to mental health, depression, poverty, homelessness, and/or substance abuse issues. STAR created a path into the service connection system, directing certain calls to more appropriate support providers while redirecting them away from a costly emergency department visit or introducing the possibility of jail.

      Last week, Congresswoman Cori Bush introduced the People’s Response Act, which would create a division within the Department of Health and Human Services that would federally fund programs like the Denver STAR program.

      Mayor Tishaura Jones and Congresswoman Cori Bush will be hosting a virtual media availability on Friday, July 9th at 1:00 PM CT. The elected officials will discuss their tour, their conversations with Denver officials, and their work to transform public safety and reduce crime in St. Louis. To attend, please RSVP with Public Information Officer Nick Dunne at dunnen@stlouis-mo.gov.

       

      Warren Village Announces $300,000 Caring for Denver Foundation Grant to Advance Wellness Initiative for Resident Families - YourHub, 7/3/2021

      YourHub

      Warren Village Announces $300,000 Caring for Denver Foundation Grant to Advance Wellness Initiative for Resident Families

      Funds will allow Warren Village to dramatically increase onsite mental health services

      Warren Village, a Denver-based organization focused on helping low-income, single-parent families make the journey from poverty to self-sufficiency, received a $300,000 grant from the Caring for Denver Foundation to advance its Wellness Initiative for resident families over the next two years.

      Warren Village’s Two-Generation (2Gen) approach focuses on creating opportunities for, and addressing the needs of, vulnerable parents and their children. An important aspect of this is the Wellness Initiative, classes and supportive modalities that address four core areas of self-sufficiency, including psychological, physical, social and financial well-being.

      The Caring for Denver grant enables Warren Village to hire one-and-a-half on-site mental health clinicians to provide services to residents 26 and under, advancing the Wellness Initiative. Of the 230 people currently living at Warren Village, more than 70 percent are under the age of 26. Warren Village also will use the funds to enhance existing mental health support and skills, such as offering life skills classes to youth heads of household and support for the Kids’ Club afterschool enrichment and summer camp programs. This funding builds on the foundation established though partnerships with the Mental Health Center of Denver and The Tennyson Center for Children, and will intensify our efforts in the mental health arena.

      “Researchers have long agreed there is an established relationship between poverty and poor health outcomes, as well as higher rates of mental health complications for children,” said Ethan Hemming, CEO & president of Warren Village. “The Caring for Denver funds allow us to provide free onsite services to our residents, dramatically increasing their access to mental healthcare, and thereby significantly improving the family’s ability to reach their full potential.”

      “Caring for Denver was created by Denver for Denver to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions,” said Lorez Meinhold, executive director of Caring for Denver. “We are grateful to partner with Warren Village in this meaningful work to support parents and their children. This program seeks to support and strengthen connections between caregivers and their children which is one of the most powerful known predictors of lifelong mental health.”

      “Warren Village’s Two-Generation Approach acknowledges the important role mental health plays in breaking the cycle of poverty for low-income, single-parent families,” said Colorado Rep. Leslie Herod, who championed the Caring4Denver ballot initiative and now serves as the Caring for Denver Foundation board chair. “As recipients of the $300,000 grant, the organization can expand their efforts to do exactly the type of work intended through the Caring4Denver ballot initiative.” 

       

      Alternatives to Calling the Denver Police Department - 5280, 7/1/2021

      5280

      by: Celeste Benzschawel

      Alternatives to Calling the Denver Police Department

      Denver’s STAR Program is a success. So much so that it’s expanding this year. Here are some more local resources to phone if you don’t want to call the police.

       •  

      Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program has responded to hundreds of 911 calls since its launch in June 2020. Zero have resulted in arrests, which is precisely the idea.

      STAR dispatches health clinicians and paramedics in the place of police officers to handle nonviolent situations, such as mental health emergencies, overdoses, or welfare checks. The combined effort involves a number of community groups, including Mental Health Center of Denver, Denver Justice Project, Denver Alliance for Street Health Response (DASHR), Denver Homeless Out Loud, and Caring 4 Denver. The STAR program, initially funded by $200,000 from the Caring 4 Denver Foundation, responds to the immediate situation and connects individuals with services they can turn to following an encounter.

      Now, STAR is set to expand. Denverite recently reported that a Denver City Council committee voted to send a proposal for $1 million in additional STAR funding to the full council. This, on top of the $1.4 million the city’s 2021 budget had allocated for the program. The Department of Public Health and Environment, which oversees STAR, also applied for $1.4 million more from Caring 4 Denver.

      The funding could help expand the van fleet from one to four—and, according to the city’s proposed 2021 budget, enable the program operate in all six police districts. (STAR currently serves the central downtown area, South Broadway to Mississippi Avenue, and temporary homeless shelters at the Denver Coliseum and National Western Complex.) Despite its growing network, however, STAR isn’t a complete alternative to police. And with COVID-19 restrictions being lifted, Jennifer Schwartz, the operations manager for Denver 911, says calls to the city’s emergency line are increasing and ticking up to pre-pandemic levels.

      Of course, people should continue to utilize 911 when they feel it’s appropriate. However, in instances where an emergency isn’t occurring—think: burglaries that are no longer in progress, noise complaints—Schwartz recommends calling Denver Police Department’s non-emergency phone number: 720-913-2000. (Calls for things such as garbage collection or homeless encampment should be routed to 311, the city of Denver’s general services phone number. Alternatively, Pocketgov Denver is an online resource where people can submit questions or report problems.) But those looking to avoid calling the police have another, nongovernmental resource to turn to, as well.

      In June 2020, after the murder of George Floyd, Los Angeles–based nonprofit attorney Mallory Sepler-King founded dontcallthepolice.com after learning about how many emergency calls do not involve violent crime. Sepler-King created a one-stop hub of community-based resources listing police alternatives, specifically “when faced with a situation that requires de-escalation and/or intervention, not violence,” according to the website.

      Dontcallthepolice.com lists resources by city, and Denver has a page of its own. The provided resources span across a number of categories, including housing, LGBTQ, mental health, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, and risk prevention for youths. A section on elders is coming soon.

      Each submission is personally vetted by Sepler-King, which includes calling each resource and finding out what their policies are regarding police involvement. “Another big part of this change … is relearning how to evaluate when outside involvement is absolutely necessary,” she says. “There’s a tendency to call the police because you see something and you don’t understand it and it makes you uncomfortable.”

      Vinnie Cervantes, organizing director of Denver Alliance for Street Health Response (DASHR), a public health and safety nonprofit, agrees. “In interpreting a situation, are you or someone in direct threat or harm? If not, is it your business?” he asks. “We get a lot of folks who call the police or call 911 when they’re really just perceiving something to be a threat when it’s really not.” He believes the number of 911 calls will only increase because of displacement. “As we’re seeing gentrification take place in Denver, which is one of the most highly gentrified cities in the country, we’re going to see a completely different narrative and understanding of what safety is, and that’s something that we need to get ahead of.”

      To help with that mission, we’ve outlined a few local resources to contact in place of the police.

      Mental Health/Substance Abuse

      Operated by the Colorado Department of Human Services, Colorado Crisis Services (CCS) is similar to STAR: People text or call in for free (1-844-493-8255, or Text “TALK” to 38255) about a number of issues, including depression, anxiety, self-injury, suicidal thoughts, domestic abuse, homelessness, and more, on behalf of themselves or concerns for others.

      Callers can choose to be connected to either a trained mental health professional or peer specialist—someone who has experienced a similar situation and has been trained to aid others—who will then provide information, referrals, and follow-up care. Individuals can also walk into any of the CCS locations, which are open 24/7, and receive a clinical evaluation. Some locations even provide a crisis bed for up to five days of voluntary or involuntary treatment.

      If an individual needs more immediate assistance, CCS can dispatch a Mobile Crisis Clinician. Camille Harding, Colorado Department of Human Services’ strategy and innovation officer, says a mobile response is determined by a variety of risk factors, such as mental health status, suicidal ideation, age group, and ability to care for oneself. The program visits about 840 patients a month.

      Housing

      DASHR distributes survival gear and first aid to communities in Denver experiencing homelessness. Formerly, DASHR volunteers, along with medics, took to the streets on Sundays to distribute these resources directly. The pandemic hit pause on that, but they plan to reboot the program this summer and expand it to other days of the week.

      DASHR also aids unhoused people that are subject to sweeps by helping them move and making sure they have what they need. Plus, DASHR protected protestors last summer with medics, supply stations, and a safehouse. The nonprofit is still working on responding to immediate crises. “If we can respond, we will, and people do call us for that kind of stuff, but it’s not always the case that we can respond,” Cervantes says. “A lot of what we’re working on this year is expanding our capacity to be able to do that kind of stuff on a more regular basis.”

      Domestic Abuse

      SafeHouse Denver has a 24-hour crisis and information hotline (734-995-5444) for those experiencing abuse, and those that know someone who is experiencing abuse. They have a range of services, including emergency shelter, counseling, extended-stay housing, support groups, and referral services.

      Emergency shelter is available on a first-come, first-serve basis for individuals or families and provides survivors with food, bedding and personal hygiene products.

       

      Denver's STAR program gets tentative $1 million to expand with more vans, longer hours - Denverite, 6/22/2021

      Denverite

      by: Esteban L. Hernandez

      Denver’s STAR program gets tentative $1 million to expand with more vans, longer hours

      The program also applied for an additional $1.4 million, from the Caring 4 Denver fund.

      Denver's STAR van drives past the Denver Rescue MIssion at Park Avenue and Lawrence Street. Feb. 12, 2021.

      Denver’s STAR van drives past the Denver Rescue MIssion at Park Avenue and Lawrence Street. Feb. 12, 2021.

       

      Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response program — the one that sends mental health professionals instead of cops to certain calls — could get $1 million in additional money to help it expand citywide.

      A City Council committee voted Tuesday to forward the funding request to the full council, which will get the final say on whether to use the money for the program, also known as STAR.

      The $1 million would be combined with $1.4 million the program got from the city’s 2021 budget, city budget and management director Stephanie Adams said during Tuesday’s committee meeting. The money considered on Tuesday is coming from the city’s contingency fund, which is money Denver sets aside for unexpected expenses. The program was originally funded by the Caring 4 Denver fund.

      Emily Williams, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Health and Environment, which oversees STAR, confirmed the department has applied to get $1.4 million for the program from Caring 4 Denver, potentially bringing the program’s total funding to $3.8 million.

      STAR responded to 748 incidents during its first six months, resulting in no arrests or jail time. STAR employees get called to incidents like trespassing and mental health episodes.

      The potential new funding sources would help expand the program to six teams, including four vans, and allow the program to operate seven days a week instead of five. The money would also allow STAR to operate 16 hours a day and expand citywide, with a focus on northeast, southwest and downtown Denver. It had previously only served certain high-demand neighborhoods, with a single van.

      STAR is under the purview of the Department of Public Health and Environment, after starting out under the supervision of the Denver Police Department. A progress report released in February showed the program had been largely successful during its first six months.

      But some advocates say they are concerned with how the city is managing the program, which launched June 1, 2020, as protests against racism and police violence erupted locally and around the country. Vinnie Cervantes, who runs Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, an organization that advocated to establish STAR, joined critics in April in arguing the program wasn’t equitable or community-driven as was intended.

       

       

      NONPROFIT REGISTER | $300,000 grant to help Warren Village advance its Wellness Initiative for Families - Colorado Politics, 6/22/2021

      Colorado Politics

      by: Joanne Davidson

      NONPROFIT REGISTER | $300,000 grant to help Warren Village advance its Wellness Initiative for Families

      2019 WV-5.jpg

       

      WARREN VILLAGE

      Denver

      News: A $300,000 grant from the Caring for Denver Foundation is enabling Warren Village to start a two-year project that will advance its Wellness Initiative for Resident Families. The initiative focuses on creating opportunities for, and addressing the needs of, vulnerable parents and their children by addressing four core areas of self-sufficiency: psychological, physical, social and financial well-being.

      With the Caring for Denver Foundation grant, Warren Village will hire two mental health clinicians — one full-time and one part-time – who will offer additional on-site services to residents aged 26 and under.

      A portion of the money will be used to enhance Warren Village’s existing mental health support and skills, such as the life skills classes available to young heads of household, and to support for Kids’ Club after-school enrichment and summer camp programs.

      “Researchers have long agreed there is an established relationship between poverty and poor health outcomes, as well as higher rates of mental health complications for children,” said Warren Village president and chief executive officer, Ethan Hemming. “The Caring for Denver funds allow us to provide free, on-site services to our residents, dramatically increasing their access to mental health care and thereby significantly improving the family’s ability to reach its full potential.”

      Lorez Meinhold, executive director of Caring for Denver, said Lorez (cq) Meinhold, added: “We are grateful to partner with Warren Village in this meaningful work to support parents and their children. This program (the Wellness Initiative) seeks to support and strengthen connections between caregivers and their children, which is one of the most powerful known predictors of lifelong mental health.”

      WV_PMS

      About the organization(s): Warren Village is focused on helping low-income, single-parent families make the journey from poverty to self-sufficiency. It has served some 7,688 children and parents since its start in 1974. Through its Two-Generation (2Gen) approach, Warren Village transforms parents’ lives, improves children’s futures and strengthens the community by providing safe and affordable housing, parent services and advocacy, early education and child care.

      The Caring for Denver Foundation was voter founded and funded to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action.

       

      21 Organizations Awarded $7.8 Million in Grants from Caring For Denver to Increase Denver Residents' Access to Mental Health and Substance Misuse Care - News Release, 6/11/2021

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

      June 11, 2021

      21 Organizations Awarded $7.8 Million in Grants from Caring For Denver to Increase
      Denver Residents’ Access to Mental Health and Substance Misuse Care

      Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation has partnered with 21 organizations providing mental health and substance misuse care to Denverites, awarding $7.8 million through its Care Provision funding area. The funding addresses a community-identified need for care that reflects, represents, and values unique cultures and needs, while also supporting the needs of care providers.

      “Caring for Denver is partnering with these organizations to prioritize mental health, build resiliency, and ensure the care being provided reflects our communities,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director.

      “Seeking help and support should not add to a person’s distress. This funding will help more people in Denver access care when they need it from providers they trust,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair of Caring for Denver.

        The awarded organizations will use funding to support three goals:

      • Increase availability of trusted, accessible care that fits Denverites’ needs
      • Support care providers to provide high-quality, culturally informed care
      • Support more effective coordination between available resources to ensure the consumer comes first

       Grantees include:

      • Asian Pacific Development Center (Denver)
      • Atlantis Community Foundation
      • Catholic Charities of Denver
      • City and County of Denver – Department of Public Health & Environment
      • Clínica Tepeyac
      • Colorado Health Network
      • Elements of Discovery – Therapist of Color Collaborative
      • Face It Together
      • First Descents
      • Griffith Centers for Children
      • Joy as Resistance
      • Karis Community
      • Maria Droste Counseling Center
      • Mile High Behavioral Healthcare
      • Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners
      • Servicios de La Raza
      • Sobriety House
      • Spark the Change Colorado
      • Stout Street Foundation
      • TOSA: Denver
      • Voluntad (formerly Street’s Hope)

       

      About Caring for Denver Foundation

      Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action. Caring for Denver has funded more than $44.6 million in the areas of alternatives to jail, care provision, community-centered solutions, youth, and special initiatives. To learn more, visit caring4denver.org.

      About Lorez Meinhold

      Lorez Meinhold serves as the Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation. She brings over twenty 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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Foundation Board.

       

      Alternative Dispatch Programs - Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, 6/4/2021

      Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund

      Alternative Dispatch Programs

      A Strategy for Improving Emergency Responses and Reducing Police Violence

      Police lights glowing at night

      Introduction

      Approximately 240 million calls are made to 911 every year in the United States.1 Only a small fraction of these calls are for serious or violent crimes. Even in communities with high homicide rates such as Baltimore, Camden, Louisiana, New Haven, and New Orleans, fewer than 4 percent of 911 calls are related to violent crimes.2 Instead, the majority of these calls are related to incidents of disorderly conduct, noise complaints, suspicious people or cars, mental health issues, substance use, and homelessness.3

      <4%

      Fewer than 4 percent of 911 calls are related to violent crime, even in cities with high homicide rates.

      S. Rebecca Neusteter et al., “Understanding Police Enforcement: A Multicity 911 Analysis” (Vera Institute of Justice, September 2020), https://bit.ly/357s1OB; Jeff Asher and Ben Horwitz, “How Do the Police Actually Spend Their Time?,” New York Times, June 19, 2020, https://nyti.ms/2X5voB8; Thomas Breen, “95.6% Of Cops’ Calls Don’t Involve Violence,” New Haven Independent, June 19, 2020,https://bit.ly/3931T8y

      At the same time, police in America kill an average of 1,062 people and injure more than 50,000 others every year.4 Nearly all police killings of civilians (95 percent) involve an officer’s firearm, with an average of three fatal police shootings occurring every day.5

      1,062

      Police in the U.S. kill an average of 1,062 people every year.

      Everytown analysis of 2013 to 2019 data from Mapping Police Violence (accessed June 4, 2020). The Mapping Police Violence dataset is compiled from Fatal EncountersKilledbyPolice.netUS Police Shootings Database, and Fatal Force. The dataset only includes killings that occur in the process of arrests, excluding medical emergencies, overdoses, and deaths ruled as probable suicide. Everytown analysis also excludes murder-suicides and killings involving police who were off-duty at time of shooting; Ted R. Miller et al., “Perils of Police Action: A Cautionary Tale from US Data Sets,” Injury Prevention 23, no. 1 (February 2017): 27–32, https://doi.org/10.1136/injuryprev-201

      3

      An average of 3 fatal police shootings occur in the U.S. every day.

      Though every police shooting is not necessarily preceded by a 911 call for service, too often a 911 call for help with a difficult situation escalates into a deadly police-civilian encounter. And both Black Americans and people with serious mental illnesses are at heightened risk during these encounters. Black Americans are nearly three times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white Americans, and one in four people shot and killed by police displayed symptoms of mental illness at the time of the encounter.6

      Police officers dispatched to these crises often lack the training necessary to resolve them. Primary topics covered in the average 21-week law enforcement training academy include weapons, defensive tactics, use of force, legal education, and operations. Meanwhile, recruits receive only one week’s worth of training on topics like conflict mediation, problem solving, partnership building, and cultural diversity, and a little more than a day’s worth of training on responding and reacting to mental illness.7

      While training around when and how to appropriately use force is vital for police when responding to serious crimes, the emphasis—both during initial training and in regular crime statistics and strategy meetings—on use of force can leave officers underprepared for the incidents they encounter most often.

      The widespread use of 911 as a crisis intervention tool—despite the tendency to result in unnecessary uses of force in crises—has both law enforcement and community members alike asking: Are police always the most appropriate first responders to 911 calls? 

      Programs that deploy public health professionals and crisis workers to situations involving mental health, substance use, and homelessness—referred to as alternative dispatch programs—offer an emerging solution that can save lives and provide critical services to those in need. Alternative dispatch programs utilize first responders who are specifically trained to resolve the emergencies that most commonly arise in communities with methods that address root problems and minimize the risk of force or deeper involvement with the justice system. These programs provide communities with a critical means for addressing crises, while also freeing police to focus on preventing and solving serious crimes.

      Key Components of Alternative Dispatch Programs

      Alternative dispatch programs operate by having civilians—such as mental health and social service professionals—respond to select calls for service in cases where their specialized training makes them better equipped to address the issue than traditional enforcement or armed officers would be on their own.8 Civilian responses are commonly recognized as a beneficial response to incidents including episodes of mental illness, self-harm/suicide risks, homelessness, substance use, select neighbor disputes, and noise complaints—and this list continues to expand as these programs develop.9 Such professionals can be staffed within 911 call centers, deployed as part of a team of first responders along with uniformed officers, or deployed alone as first responders themselves. The setup of such a program can vary depending on the community’s resources and needs. Regardless of the approach, alternative dispatch programs seek to provide communities with quality emergency services while simultaneously reducing unnecessary arrests and uses of force, hospital and emergency department visits, and related costs.10

      Examples of Alternative Dispatch Programs

      There are several existing and emerging programs that cities can look to as they explore quality emergency services for their communities. While not exhaustive, the list of programs below demonstrates different approaches cities have taken or are looking to implement. 

      CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon

      Crisis Response Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS), which operates out of the White Bird Clinic in Eugene, Oregon, is the longest- running alternative dispatch program.11 For over three decades, CAHOOTS has provided residents of Eugene and nearby Springfield with access to free, trained, civilian first responders for emergency situations involving mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness. As part of the program, mental health professionals and medics are dispatched by the police department’s central 911 system in response to non-criminal calls for service, instead of police officers. On average, CAHOOTS responders require police assistance in just 2 percent of calls.12 This saves the city of Eugene an estimated $8.5 million annually in public safety costs plus an additional $14 million in ambulance trips and emergency response costs.13 Initially, CAHOOTS only provided services during select times and days of the week and served a limited area. However, when the cost-saving and treatment benefits became clear to city officials, the program was expanded to include 24/7 coverage in two cities.14

      “If you have the wrong individuals responding and they don’t recognize that medical emergencies and behavioral health emergencies can sometimes overlap and mirror each other, decisions could be made that have tragic outcomes.”

      Ben Brubaker, White Bird Clinic15

      STAR in Denver, Colorado

      Denver, Colorado’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program began as a six-month pilot in June 2020.16 Funded by the Caring for Denver Foundation and a related November 2018 ballot initiative to support mental health and substance use programs, STAR is an expansion of the city’s 2016 alternative dispatch program. Depending on the needs of the situation, a central dispatcher can deploy just the police, police along with mental health professionals, or a STAR van (i.e., mental health professionals alone) to respond to a 911 call. Operating eight hours per day, five days per week in one police district, the pilot program responded to an average of 29 incidents per week, with mental illness and/or homelessness being a primary concern in over 60 percent of the incidents.17

      “Since becoming mayor, I have prioritized within my administration building a more community-oriented public safety approach. We know that a police response is not always the appropriate response for people who are in crisis and need support. That’s why Denver’s STAR program dispatches health professionals and case workers to certain 911 calls instead of an armed officer. Expanding reforms and prioritizing a diverse network of support services for our first responders ensures the health and safety of every resident, visitor and business in Denver.”

      Michael Hancock, Mayor, City of Denver18

      CCD in Houston, Texas

      First implemented in 2015, Houston’s Crisis Call Diversion (CCD) program triages non-life threatening mental health calls to telehealth professionals from the Harris Center for Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, staffed within the 911 call center.“19 These professionals perform a variety of duties including mental health assessments, creating suicide and violence safety plans, and social services referrals. A 2017 internal evaluation found that the CCD program processed over 7,000 calls in a year and diverted nearly 30 percent of them from a police patrol response. This saved Houston an estimated $860,218 annually.

      Emerging Programs Across the Country

      More cities have taken steps to explore and implement alternative dispatch programs. In June 2020, Mayor Tim Keller of Albuquerque, New Mexico, announced the forthcoming Albuquerque Community Safety Department, which, once launched, will serve as a first-of-its-kind civilian public safety branch for responding to non-violent and mental health-related incidents.“20 Similarly, Portland, Oregon launched its own alternative dispatch pilot program, Community Health Assessment Team (CHAT), as of January 2021. CHAT responds to crises related to homelessness and/or behavioral health.21 In February 2021, mental health services were added as a fourth option for callers requesting a 911 emergency response in Austin, Texas. Callers who choose that option will be connected to a mental health clinician from the city’s Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team.22 Many other cities across the country, including  New York City, New York;23 San Francisco, California;24 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania;25 Oakland, California;26 and Rochester, New York27 are exploring similar options or building upon existing programs.

      “We were basically saying that poverty, trauma, and substance abuse were criminal issues, because we were sending police officers to them, and we really wanted to change that.”

      Albuquerque’s Chief Administrative Officer, Sarita Nair28

      Recommendations

      Creating alternative dispatch options that involve connecting people in crisis with the mental health and social services they need is a key component of Everytown’s strategy for preventing police gun violence. It was also the central focus of an August 2020 Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) University session attended by more than 50 leaders from 30 cities. Based on conversations with city leaders who have firsthand experience with alternative dispatch programs, as well as preliminary analysis of existing programs, Everytown recommends that city leaders undertake the following steps to ascertain whether alternative dispatch programs are appropriate for their communities:

      1. In consultation with the police department, analyze 911 call data to identify common incident types to inform deployment strategies and prioritize impact areas;
      2. Engage in community outreach throughout the duration of any program or pilot for community awareness, input, and buy-in;
      3. Identify potential crisis response, mental health, and social service providers; coordinate responses; and provide clarity of roles;
      4. Determine potential funding sources;  
      5. If alternative dispatch is found to be appropriate, launch an initial pilot program29 before rolling out citywide. 
      6. Track and analyze data on program processes (e.g., number of calls responded to, police contacts diverted/follow-ups needed, types of calls addressed, call resolutions, etc.) and outcomes (e.g., uses of force, hospital admissions, crime, arrest rates, cost, etc.), to inform evidence of what drives success.

      To learn more about alternative dispatch programs, how they work, and resources for cities looking to implement them, please email Naureen Kabir, senior policy advisor for Community Safety Initiatives, at nkabir@everytown.org.

       

      Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.

       

      Caring for Denver Foundation Reaches $44 Million Milestone in Grant Awards; $11 Million Additional Pending in August - News Release, 6/2/2021

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

      June 2, 2021

      Caring for Denver Foundation Reaches $44 Million Milestone in Grant Awards; $11 Million Additional Pending in August

      Denver, CO — Caring for Denver Foundation announced it has reached a critical milestone this month having awarded $44.8 million in grants to organizations transforming how mental health and substance misuse supports and services are delivered across the city.

      Caring for Denver is also now accepting grant proposals for its $11 million Alternatives to Jail initiative which includes funding for co-responders and similar programs aimed at reducing the incidence of those struggling with mental health or substance misuse from entering the criminal justice system. Co-responders are the highly effective and recognized program that provides trained mental health experts to accompany police officers on 911 calls involving incidents with a mental health dimension and ensures that those in mental health and substance misuse crisis are diverted from the criminal justice system and toward the right care.

      This last year of funding included the launch in June of the Denver STAR (Support Team Assisted Response) program which dispatches a paramedic, instead of police, and a mental health professional in a mobile crisis unit to respond to someone in a mental health emergency, stabilize them, de-escalate the situation and divert them from the criminal justice system by connecting them with the appropriate community resource for ongoing care.

       “We are proud of the work Caring for Denver has been able to accomplish in one short year,” said State Representative Leslie Herod, Board Chair of the Foundation. “Through our alternatives to jail grantmaking, we have led the charge on innovative and transformative programs like STAR. Investments like these ensure that we are providing people the critical services these need to break the cycle of incarceration and poverty, freeing up critical tax dollars for more productive uses.”

      The nature of Caring for Denver itself stems from innovation and transformation. Voters in 2018 approved the formation of Caring for Denver as a non-profit foundation funded by city sales tax revenues to support mental health and substance misuse services.  Caring for Denver is among the few major U.S. cities employing a sales-tax funded foundation to address mental health needs.

      The city ordinance that created Caring for Denver specified that the foundation focus on four areas: Alternatives to Jail, Care Provision, Community-Centered Solutions, and Youth.  Since its inception in 2018, Caring for Denver has funded more than 171 grants across these four areas ranging from less than $20,000 up to $600,000.

      “Caring for Denver was created by Denver for Denver to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director of Caring for Denver.

      “It’s fitting that we have passed the $44 million grant milestone as National Mental Health Awareness Month draws to a close,” said Meinhold.  “Denver’s foreword-thinking approach to providing resources to meet these challenges is, we believe, a national model. We thank all the hard-working individuals and organizations that are doing the work in our communities to support and deliver the support and care that’s needed.”

      Applications for grants in the Alternatives to Jail initiative are being accepted through June 10, 2021 at 7 p.m. MST. Caring for Denver was established in 2018 by approval of Denver Initiated Ordinance 301, which passed by a 75%-25% margin of Denver voters.  The ordinance calls for $.25 of every $100 in city sales tax to be allocated toward mental health and substance misuse needs in the City and County of Denver. 

      A small portion of Caring for Denver’s funds are directed back to the City of Denver for mental health and substance misuse services; the remainder are delivered to non-profit organizations, public schools and agencies through a rigorous grant review process.

       

      About Caring for Denver

      Caring for Denver Foundation was authorized by a vote of Denver voters in November 2018.  Its mission is to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action.  To learn more please visit caring4denver.org.

       

      7 things to know about Denver STAR, a program to send mental health workers and medics to 911 calls - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 5/27/2021

      Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

      By Ashley Houston

      7 things to know about Denver STAR, a program to send mental health workers and medics to 911 calls

      Carleigh Sailon, Mental Health Center of Denver program manager, left, and Dustin Yancy, a Denver Health paramedic, respond to 911 calls involving mental health and substance abuse in Denver.

      Carleigh Sailon, Mental Health of Denver program manager, left, and Dustin Yancy, a Denver Health paramedic, respond to 911 calls involving mental health and substance abuse in Denver. City of Denver

      The calls for help kept rising in Denver: Welfare checks. Suicidal subjects. An overdose victim.

      As 2020 began, even before a global pandemic swept across the country, Denver police data showed mental health-related 911 calls were up 17% from the three-year average.

      Last June, the city launched Denver Support Team Assisted Response (STAR), a paramedic and mental health clinician team that headed to 911 calls in a van without police. They treated people with mental health and substance abuse issues and connected them with services.

      A six-month study of the new pilot program is showing signs of progress. The alternative team responded to 748 calls. None ended with police being called or an arrest.

      In the pilot, Denver 911 noted all calls that fit the criteria for STAR, even if calls fell outside the pilot parameters. About 2.8% of the calls — roughly 2,500 of 92,400 — qualified. Denver has an average of 600,000 calls annually, meaning about 16,800 calls could be answered by civilians, not police.

      On average, Milwaukee dispatches between 7,000 and 8,000 calls related to mental health annually, about 3% of police call volume, according to police data given to the Common Council.

      Denver officials have touted the success of STAR, but there are growing pains as some community partners say they have been cut out of the planned expansion.

      Here are seven lessons Milwaukee can take from Denver’s experience.

      It took time.

      Denver community leaders had advocated for an alternative for at least four years before it became a reality.

      It took the city and community three years to put the program together, from researching models to analyzing Denver data and hiring staff.

      Denver had a funding source.

      In November 2018, Denver voters approved a new 0.25% sales tax increase to generate about $35 million annually. The ballot initiative passed with 70% approval.

      At least 10% of the new sales-tax revenue was dedicated to specific public safety services related to mental health and substance abuse. Voters knew this when they cast their ballots. The amount covered the $200,000 cost of the pilot program. The planned $1.4 million expansion is coming from the city’s general fund.

      If Milwaukee wanted to put a similar sales tax on the ballot, the city first must get approval from the Republican-controlled state Legislature. Republican leaders in Wisconsin have rejected the city’s earlier pleas to put such a measure before voters.

      Denver researched an established program.

      Denver leaders went to Eugene, Oregon, to learn more details about the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program.

      CAHOOTS has gotten widespread attention in the last year as cities rethink public safety after the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the ensuing protests for racial justice. Milwaukee officials have cited it as an example they may want to model.

      CAHOOTS, founded more than 30 years ago, is a partnership with a private counseling clinic and the police department. The clinic runs vans staffed with mental health professionals/crisis responders and a trained medic. CAHOOTS is dispatched from the city’s 911 center to calls involving people who appear intoxicated, disoriented or mentally ill.

      It took collaboration.

      Denver had a team of government and nonprofit community partners.

      The Caring for Denver Foundation (which successfully lobbied for the sales-tax ballot initiative), Denver Police Department, Mental Health Center of Denver, Denver Mental Health Paramedic Division, Denver 911 and community resource providers all joined together.

      The Common Council created a task force in March to research and propose a master plan within six months. Although some early conversations have occurred, the task force does not have its full membership roster complete and has not had a formal meeting.

      Data drove decisions.

      In the past, Denver 911 could only send police or medics in an ambulance. STAR provided a third option. But what calls were appropriate?

      The team analyzed 911 data and chose certain call codes to flag for STAR: assist, intoxicated person, suicidal series, welfare check, indecent exposure, trespass unwanted person and syringe disposal.

      Most of the calls came from one police district, two precincts within other police districts and one corridor, so that is where the pilot program was based.

      Staff from Denver 911 also created an easy-to-understand flow chart and new training on how to dispatch STAR. The program is not designed to respond to violent situations or life-threatening emergencies.

      STAR was not the only option.

      Many cities, including Denver and Milwaukee, have paired officers with mental health counselors in specialized teams, often referred to as “co-responder” units.

      Denver has invested heavily in those units since 2016. The city of about 725,000 people has 25 such teams and is adding seven more to respond at all hours. Milwaukee, with a population of about 600,000, has three teams in the city and is adding three more this year.

      If a person is armed or demonstrated violent behavior, the “co-responder” unit should be dispatched, Denver’s police chief said. If a 911 operator is not sure whether to send the co-responder team or the STAR van, then the default is to send a co-responder

      Community involvement must be real — or else partnerships faltered.

      In Denver, the biggest divide has come with STAR’s planned expansion.

      Residents and city representatives led an expansion subcommittee within the larger group that had created STAR.

      They proposed an advisory committee and drafted a charter calling for a “trauma-informed and culturally responsive” program with staff “who share lived experiences and identities with Denver’s diverse population.”

      Months later, the city health department, which now houses STAR, presented a $1.4 million expansion plan to the city council. That plan included proposals the working group had not agreed to and now some community groups have withdrawn from the process.

      The loss of trust could undermine STAR, a program that stemmed, in part, from distrust of the police from residents.

      Caring for Denver directs $11 million into jail diversion - Colorado Politics, 5/12/2021

      Colorado Politics

      By Joey Bunch

      Caring for Denver directs $11 million into jail diversion

      Herod and Meinhold
      Caring for Denver Board chair Leslie Herod, a lawmaker from Denver, speaks with Lorez Meinhold, executive director of the voter-approved foundation’s board of directors.

       

      The Caring for Denver Foundation continues to put money approved by city voters into improving mental health and fighting substance misuse, announcing $11 million for the its Alternatives to Jail initiative.

      The criminal justice system is clogged with people who need help more than punishment, the foundation contends, noting Wednesday that at least 50% of those in Denver’s jail have at least one diagnosed mental health condition.

      Besides a healthier and safer community, reducing recidivism also saves money and averts the misery of addicts, the mentally ill and their loved ones, the foundation officials said.

      In 2018, Denver passed a 0.25% sales tax — that’s 25 cents on every $100 purchase — to raise money for mental health and substance misuse programs.

      “When we don’t adequately fund mental health and substance misuse, we pay for it in the criminal justice system, the child welfare system, in the ER and schools,” Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, who chairs the foundation, said in a statement Wednesday. “We cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this.”

      She pivoted to the bigger picture: “This is no longer about them anymore, it’s about us, and I’m proud to continue working with Caring for Denver on the bold ways we can provide services to those in need without leaning on the criminal justice system.”

      Herod campaigned for the ballot measure that passed with 68% support. The foundation launched in November 2019.

      The foundation does due diligence on distributing an expected $35 million into a swath of Denver programs, including ongoing support for the jail diversion program, one of its priorities.

      “We’re eager to continue our work to strengthen Denver’s network of supports for people who need a mental health and substance misuse response when they are experiencing trauma,” stated Lorez Meinhold, the foundation’s executive director. “This will provide safe alternatives for care and services rather than people getting caught in the vicious cycle of the justice system.”

      The application period for the next round of funding is open until June 10. More information is available by clicking here.

       

      Denver STAR Program: When Mental Health Workers Respond to 911 Calls - TEDxMileMigh, 4/19/2021

      TEDxMileHigh

      By Lily Capstick

      Denver STAR Program: When Mental Health Workers Respond to 911 Calls

      In June 2020, the Denver STAR program—a group of mental health professionals trained to respond to 911 calls—launched in Denver, Colorado, just as protests against police brutality erupted country-wide. Since June, the Denver STAR program has been highly successful. Fewer cases of excessive police force and arrests have led to continued funding for the program. Learn more about the Denver STAR program and the potential for country-wide use of this policing alternative.

      Mass Incarceration and Police Brutality in the U.S.

      With over 2.2 million Americans behind bars, the U.S. is the world leader in mass incarceration. Of those incarcerated, over 57 percent are Black or Latinx, despite only making up 29 percent of the U.S. population.

      Communities of color are not only over-represented inside prisons, but also in accounts of police brutality. In just the past year, the police have shot and killed 985 people. Despite consisting of only 13 percent of the U.S. population, Black men are more than twice as likely to be killed by the police than white men.

      Incarcerated individuals are also more likely to experience mental health or substance abuse issues than the general population. More than half of people in prison experience some form of mental health issue, while between 10 and 25 percent suffer from extreme mental illness, including schizophrenia and major affective disorders.

      Compare that to an estimated 65 percent of U.S. prisoners who have a substance use disorder (SUD) and it is no secret that the U.S. has institutionalized responding to mental health issues with prison time.

      When the Denver STAR program launched in June of 2020, it set out to address these inequities. What if mental health workers responded to 911 calls instead of the police? Could the Denver STAR program reduce local cases of police brutality and arrests for mental health and substance abuse?

      Denver STAR Program: Support Team Assisted Response

      Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod is passionate about ending the criminalization of mental illness and substance abuse. In 2018, Herod launched the Caring for Denver ballot initiative, which allocated $30 million to create more mental health and substance-use services in Denver. Thus, creating the Denver STAR program.

      What If Mental Health Workers Responded to 911 Calls? Denver STAR Program

      In her TEDxMileHigh Talk, Representative Herod explores what might happen if the police do not respond to every 911 call. What happens when some 911 calls are diverted to social workers, substance abuse counselors, health providers, or other trained professionals who will not use force? What happens when people experiencing a mental health crisis are provided with mental health resources, instead of being arrested?

      As Representative Herod explains, in some cases, calling 911 can be the beginning to the end of someone’s life. This is often due to the police not having the tools necessary to respond to a mental health crisis. As Herod states, “nearly 50 percent of victims of police brutality have … a mental health disability.”

      “To fix the mass incarceration issue, we must look critically at every piece of the puzzle, find out what’s working and fix what’s not. If there’s one thing that’s clearly not working, it’s the one-size-fits-all approach.”

      Herod asks, “Why are we asking our police and our prisons to fix our mental health crisis?” The Denver STAR program is the first of many potential solutions to this problem.

      Denver STAR Program: Evaluated

      Early Success

      In the first six months of the program, STAR resolved a total of 748 incidents—up to six calls a day—that involved no force, arrests, or jail. These incidents took place during the STAR operating hours of 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in neighborhoods with high 911 call rates. In one case, someone called 911 because a man with no shoes in 5-degree weather was becoming agitated. The Denver STAR program provided him with shoes and resolved the issue without any further disturbance.

      The early success of the program has led officials to allow STAR to expand and handle 3 percent of the total 911 calls in Denver. (This would equal around $11 million dollars in funding to expand the program.)

      Ideas for Improvement

      In the official evaluation of the program, the city indicates a few areas to improve the program. To expand accessibility, the city suggests adding wheelchair functionality to the STAR vans. There are also recommendations to include a system for measuring the long-term outcomes of the program.

      It states, “Future evaluations should focus on an individual’s interactions with the criminal justice system post-intervention and fidelity to established treatment programs as a result of their initial assessment by the STAR team.” In the next couple of months, the city may be adding four to six more vans and a full-time supervisor to the team.

      Carleigh Sailon, a STAR social worker, told the Denverite that more vans, food, and blankets, in addition to after-hour and weekend shifts, are necessary to improve the program. Melvin Wilson, senior policy consultant for the National Association of Social Workers, explained further. He said, “What social workers really need are more options that provide comprehensive alternatives to criminalization.”

      The Potential Future for Nation-Wide Use of the Denver STAR Program

      While the Denver STAR program gathered inspiration from the CAHOOTS team in Oregon, larger cities are launching similar programs, including San Francisco and New York City. Hopefully, these initiatives can become national policy, reducing mass incarceration and accounts of police brutality.

      Further Learning

      If you would like to learn more about the alternatives to police in 911 calls, check out these resources:

       

      Caring For Denver Approves 10 Million in Grants for Mental Health - Out Front Magazine, 4/19/2021

      Out Front Magazine

      Caring For Denver Approves 10 Million in Grants for Mental Health

      Caring for Denver Foundation has approved 47 new grants that will provide $10 million to assist Denver youth struggling with trauma, substance abuse and mental health. The grants have been given to local nonprofits such as the Denver’s Children Home, Muslim Youth for Positive Impact, and the Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation.

      The Caring for Denver foundation was created after a ballot initiative in Denver passed to allocate 25 cents to mental health and substance abuse for every $100 dollars spent in Denver. Their mission is “to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action.” This includes funding resources that can help keep Denver youth out of jail and increasing the availability of care providers that can help people with mental and physical health.

      The 2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey found that 35 percent of students experienced symptoms of clinical depression. This number has been rising over the years, and there are predictions that the pandemic has taken a huge toll on the mental health of children.

      Addressing mental health needs early in life leads to healthier adult citizens and reduces the need for costly services later in life. By investing in these programs, Caring for Denver hopes to give children the tools they need to address their trauma, teach them coping mechanisms and educate their family and friends on how to support those around them.

      “Our youth are dealing with a lot of loss, anxiety, and depression. Social isolation has only heightened these needs. We are grateful to partner with these incredible organizations at such a critical time,” said Lorez Meinhold, executive director.

      Leslie Herod (D-Denver) championed the creation of Caring for Denver and now serves as Chair of the Caring For Denver Foundation Board.

      “It is unacceptable that our young people carry so much unacknowledged weight on their shoulders—this funding not only acknowledges their trauma but gives them much needed support in this challenging time,” Herod said.

       

      Philanthropy @ Work – Grants and Programs – April 2021 - Grantmakers in Health, 4/14/2021

      Grantmakers in Health

      Caring for Denver Foundation (Denver, CO)

      Youth are experiencing profound mental health challenges that put them at higher risk of mental health and substance misuse issues. Now, Caring for Denver Foundation has approved 47 grants totaling nearly $10 million to provide earlier and greater resources to reduce crisis and increase resilience for Denver, Colorado youth coping with life stressors.

      When Caring for Denver, founded by a City of Denver ordinance, first launched, Denver residents identified funding for youth as a top priority. Even before the pandemic, the share of high school students experiencing symptoms of clinical depression was on an upward trajectory, increasing to nearly 35 percent of students in 2019 (2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey). Addressing mental health and substance misuse needs earlier in life leads to less crisis and less need for costly services later in life.

      Fifty-two youth partners informed the call for proposals, emphasizing the importance of funding innovative approaches that are youth-informed or youth-led, focus on the strengths of youth, and value culture in healing and identity.

      With this investment Caring for Denver aims to:

      1. Reduce youth harm to self and others through addressing trauma, mental health, and substance misuse.
      2. Increase youth ability to demonstrate healthy resilience for coping with challenges and stresses in life.
      3. Increase awareness and involvement by family and allies in ways that help youth address trauma, mental health, and substance misuse.

      Grantees include:

      • Adoption Options
      • Apprentice of Peace Youth Organization
      • Art from Ashes, Inc
      • Boys & Girls Clubs Metro Denver
      • Casa Milagro Youth Solutions
      • Centus Counseling, Consulting & Education
      • Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation
      • Clayton Early Learning
      • Commún
      • Creative Strategies for Change
      • Denver Children’s Home
      • Denver Health Foundation
      • Denver Rescue Mission
      • Denver’s Early Childhood Council
      • Developmental FX
      • Dream Center Denver
      • From the Heart Enterprises
      • Girls Inc. of Metro Denver
      • Jewish Family Service of Colorado
      • Judi’s House/JAG Institute
      • Khesed
      • Launch Network
      • Lincoln Hills Cares
      • Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains
      • Make A Chess Move
      • Mental Health Center of Denver
      • Mile High 360
      • Muslim Youth for Positive Impact
      • Project PAVE Inc.
      • Project VOYCE
      • Queer Asterisk
      • Rise Above Colorado
      • The ROCK Center
      • Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network
      • Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation
      • Second Wind Fund, Inc.
      • The Spring Institute
      • Star Girlz Empowerment Inc
      • Struggle of Love Foundation
      • Sun Valley Youth Center
      • Tennyson Center for Children
      • Thriving Families
      • Vuela for Health
      • Warren Village
      • Women’s Wilderness
      • Words To Power
      • Youth On Record

       

       

      Caring for Denver Foundation Awards nearly $10 Million to Address Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Misuse Among Denver Youth - News Release, 3/25/2021

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

      March 25, 2021

      Caring for Denver Foundation Awards nearly $10 Million to Address Mental Health, Trauma, and Substance Misuse Among Denver Youth

      Denver, CO – Youth are experiencing profound mental health challenges that put them at higher risk of mental health and substance misuse issues. Now, Caring for Denver Foundation has approved 47 grants totaling nearly $10 million to provide earlier and more resources to reduce crisis and increase resilience for Denver youth coping with life stressors.

       

      Even before the pandemic, the share of high school students experiencing symptoms of clinical depression was on an upward trajectory, increasing to nearly 35% of students in 2019 (2019 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey). Funding for youth is one of the priorities Denver residents identified when Caring for Denver, founded by a City of Denver ordinance, first launched. Addressing mental health and substance misuse needs earlier in life leads to less crisis and less need for costly services later in life.

      Fifty-two youth partners informed the call for proposals, emphasizing the importance of funding innovative approaches that are youth-informed or youth-led, focus on the strengths of youth, and value culture in healing and identity.

       

      With this investment in Denver youth, Caring for Denver aims to:

      1. Reduce youth harm to self and others through addressing trauma, mental health, and substance misuse
      2. Increase youth ability to demonstrate healthy resilience for coping with challenges and stresses in life
      3. Increase awareness and involvement by family and allies in ways that help youth address trauma, mental health, and substance misuse

       

      Grantees include:

      • Adoption Options
      • Apprentice of Peace Youth Organization
      • Art from Ashes, Inc
      • Boys & Girls Clubs Metro Denver
      • Casa Milagro Youth Solutions
      • Centus Counseling, Consulting & Education
      • Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation
      • Clayton Early Learning
      • Commún
      • Creative Strategies for Change
      • Denver Children’s Home
      • Denver Health Foundation
      • Denver Rescue Mission
      • Denver’s Early Childhood Council
      • Developmental FX
      • Dream Center Denver
      • From the Heart Enterprises
      • Girls Inc. of Metro Denver
      • Jewish Family Service of Colorado
      • Judi’s House/JAG Institute
      • Khesed
      • Launch Network
      • Lincoln Hills Cares
      • Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains
      • Make A Chess Move
      • Mental Health Center of Denver
      • Mile High 360
      • Muslim Youth for Positive Impact
      • Project PAVE Inc.
      • Project VOYCE
      • Queer Asterisk
      • Rise Above Colorado
      • The ROCK Center
      • Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network
      • Saint Joseph Hospital Foundation
      • Second Wind Fund, Inc.
      • The Spring Institute
      • Star Girlz Empowerment Inc
      • Struggle of Love Foundation
      • Sun Valley Youth Center
      • Tennyson Center for Children
      • Thriving Families
      • Vuela for Health
      • Warren Village
      • Women’s Wilderness
      • Words To Power
      • Youth On Record

       

      “Our youth are dealing with a lot of loss, anxiety, and depression. Social isolation has only heightened these needs. We are grateful to partner with these incredible organizations at such a critical time,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director.

      “It is unacceptable that our young people carry so much unacknowledged weight on their shoulders—this funding not only acknowledges their trauma but gives them much needed support in this challenging time,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair.

      About Caring for Denver Foundation

      Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action.

      About Lorez Meinhold

      Lorez Meinhold serves as the Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation. She brings over twenty 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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Foundation Board.

      STAR Program Redirecting Mental Health Emergency Calls Away From Police a Success in Denver - Criminal Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, 3/15/2021

      By Kevin Bliss

      Criminal Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center

      STAR Program Redirecting Mental Health Emergency Calls Away From Police a Success in Denver

      Originally managed by the city’s safety department but since transferred to its public health department, STAR is the product of a group of members from the police department, health department, Denver 911, the Caring for Denver Foundation, Mental Health Center of Denver, and the Denver Alliance for Street Health Response (“DASHR”), which traveled to Eugene, Oregon, to examine that city’s Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (“CAHOOTS”) initiative. Eugene’s program was launched in 1989 to respond to a range of mental health issues as a technique of reducing the harm that had resulted from police encounters with the same. As of 2017, CAHOOTS responders answered 17% of the total volume of police calls, eliminating any possibility of police violence in any of those responses.

      Denver coordinated with several other Colorado cities to draft a new type of crisis response unit, one that might not end in the unfortunate death of someone suffering a mental health breakdown such as happened with 23-year-old Elijah McClain of Aurora, Colorado. The city launched the pilot program in June with a one two-man team staffed in a van roaming the streets from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

      The Washington Post reported that police fatally shoot hundreds of people experiencing mental health crises every year, nearly 1,400 since 2015. In the first six months of STAR in Denver, the ‘‘person-centric mobile crisis response’’ unit answered 748 of the 2,500 emergency calls that came their way. Not one response resulted in any abuse or arrest. Most of the calls were for the homeless (68%) and mental health issues (61%). Correspondingly, police answered 95,000 calls during the same timeframe. Fully operational, STAR could potentially take 3% or more of the police department’s total case load.

      This year, the city has allocated $1.4 million to the program, enough to purchase four more vans, six two-man teams, and a full-time supervisor to expand the program’s response. “Overall, the first six months has kind of been a proof of concept of what we wanted,” stated Vinnie Cervantes, a founder of DASHR. “We’ve continued to try to work to make it something that is truly a community-city partnership.”

      Denver follows several other cities developing similar programs as people call for defunding police due to the number of recent fatal shootings of people experiencing mental health issues nationwide. Los Angeles and San Antonio partnered police and mental health professionals as “co-responders” to answer mental health incidents. Chicago, Illinois, and Louisville, Kentucky are expected to follow suit this year. Aurora launches its STAR program this month. 

      Social Workers Instead of Police? Denver’s 911 Experiment Is a Promising Start - Curbed, 3/9/2021

      By Alissa Walker

      Curbed

      Social Workers Instead of Police? Denver’s 911 Experiment Is a Promising Start

      Instead of a police cruiser, a van with bottled water and snacks. Photo: Courtesy of Caring for Denver

      A 911 dispatch looks about the same no matter where you are in the U.S.: sirens, strobe lights atop police cruisers, and first responders armed with guns and pepper spray, the reason for the call notwithstanding. But if you dial 911 in Denver, you might be greeted instead by a mental-health clinician and a paramedic driving a customized van equipped with food, water, and blankets. For the past six months, the city’s Support Team Assisted Response program, known as STAR, has been dispatching social workers instead of cops on nonemergency calls, with astoundingly good outcomes. According to a report released last month, STAR responded to 748 incidents — up to six calls per day — and none of the calls required backup from police, led to arrests, or resulted in jail time. Several of the incidents illustrate just how far the new approach is from the old. In one example from earlier this year, someone called 911 because a man walking around barefoot in downtown Denver had become agitated (not surprising, as it was only five degrees outside). The STAR responders bought the man shoes.

      The program’s roots go back to 2016, when a dozen social workers started riding along as co-responders with Denver police on certain calls. The program was dramatically expanded after the passage of a ballot measure in 2018 that directed $45 million in sales-tax revenue per year to fund mental-health and substance-misuse resources in the city. It’s up to the police dispatcher to direct the call to STAR, and so far only about 3 percent of all 911 calls are diverted away from police. A full one-third of the incidents that STAR responds to are called in by officers themselves, typically when they know the team would be a better fit than police would — and that’s really the goal, says Lorez Meinhold, executive director of the Caring for Denver Foundation. “Whether you’re talking about STAR or co-responders, it’s about those calls that go into 911,” she tells Curbed, “how we direct them away from the justice system and into care.”

      Before setting up the STAR program, Meinhold traveled with a Denver cohort of social workers and mental-health professionals to Eugene, Oregon, to meet with leaders of Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets, or CAHOOTS, which has become the gold standard of crisis-intervention programs. Introduced in 1989, CAHOOTS now takes up to 20 percent of all 911 calls, saving the city an estimated $15 million per year by avoiding police overtime and emergency-room visits. In a 2020 NPR interview, CAHOOTS crisis worker Ebony Morgan said she joined the team after her own father had been killed during a police encounter, realizing the potential of the program to avoid such a tragedy. “In 30 years, we’ve never had a serious injury or a death that our team was responsible for,” she said. “And I think that’s important to note.”

      While Meinhold agreed that the CAHOOTS model has been exceptionally effective, she also saw that the needs of Eugene, a college town with a population of 168,000, were vastly different from the needs of Denver, a city of 750,000 within a metropolitan region of 3 million. Although the ballot measure had been broadly popular — over 70 percent voted yes — there was concern that residents might need to warm up to the idea of unaccompanied social workers’ responding to 911 calls. But, by chance, when STAR took its first call on June 1, 2020, Black Lives Matter 5280 activists had been marching throughout Denver for four days to protest the killing of George Floyd as well as local police encounters that had resulted in the beatings or deaths of unarmed Black residents (resulting in a lawsuit filed against the Denver Police Department for unconstitutional use of force). Suddenly, Denver’s initiative was being held up nationwide as an example — larger cities are launching similar efforts; San Francisco now has two “street crisis” teams as of last month and New York City wants to pilot a program in Harlem — even though it had been proposed under different circumstances. “We were never trying to say, ‘This money needs to come out of the police,’” says Meinhold — and, in fact, the program remains closely partnered with DPD. But she believes the demonstrated social benefits and cost savings will incrementally increase the proportion of calls that go to STAR, just like in Eugene. “Our thought was that we can pilot it and within that first six months, work to expand it to more districts.” (It’s now limited to certain neighborhoods, and only operates Monday through Friday from 10 to 6.)

      In the early days of the STAR program, some of the marches organized in the city were demanding justice for Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old unarmed Black man who had died after an encounter with police in Aurora, a small city adjacent to Denver. On the evening of August 24, 2019, a call had been made to 911 describing a “suspicious” person walking near a busy roadway, gesturing erratically. “You would think this would be a call that a STAR or CAHOOTS model would be appropriate to respond to,” says Jonathan Smith, executive director of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, who led an independent investigation on McClain’s death released last month. Instead, McClain was apprehended and restrained by police, and first responders knocked him out with an injection of a powerful sedative, ketamine; he died three days later. In fact, one of the three officers had been trained in crisis intervention, but did not intervene to stop the use of force, which, to Smith, illustrates that the department did not value the training. But it also illustrates the limits of police reform — and how different the response would be just three miles west. After McClain’s death, new policies in Aurora now require that responding police must only determine if a crime is, indeed, being committed. If not, they’re supposed to drive away. McClain, it turned out, had been making strange gestures because he was listening to his headphones and was waving his hands to the music, says Smith. “Had they spent 30 seconds watching him under the new policy, they might have let him go home.”

      While these types of approaches might successfully divert people from the justice system to the health-care system, the country’s mental-health response has its own problems, notes Smith, who spent five years as a civil-rights attorney at the Department of Justice during the Obama administration. “If you have a functioning health-care system, it’s great to have these policing alternatives,” he says. “Right now there’s a failure of the social-services network that prevents people from going into crisis in the first place.” What social workers really need are more options — the term of art is “referral avenues” — that provide comprehensive alternatives to criminalization, says Melvin Wilson, senior policy consultant for the National Association of Social Workers, who co-authored an October 2020 report on pre-arrest diversion and 911 alternatives. “Eventually it will shake out to be more of a community-based model, but we don’t want to be replacing police,” he says. “This national discussion of reinvestment and moving money away from police is really about creating more funding in communities to bring more people into local mental-health agencies.” That might include creating an entirely separate number to call; it’s estimated that up to one half of the 240 million 911 calls made in the U.S. each year involve people with a mental illness or disability. Last year, Congress designated 988 as a national suicide-prevention hotline, but that type of service could be expanded to pick up where 911 leaves off, says Wilson, and include a “community responder” dispatch to address all mental-health crises.

      Meinhold agrees that the root of the problem is the underfunding of local health systems. “We have not addressed mental health,” she says. “But until we improve the system, we have to create these diversion points to help connect people to care.” She points to an instance where 911 was called to de-escalate a situation at an urban camping site. According to police who arrived on the scene, a homeless woman was acting aggressively. But in STAR’s report, a woman who had a developmental disability was afraid because police had been conducting anti-homeless sweeps in the area. After social workers spoke with her, she was able to communicate that she actually had a place to stay and medication she needed to take, both of which were provided. “It’s the same person — it’s just how the call comes in,” says Meinhold. “We build these programs and systems that become very siloed. But it’s important that we put the people first.”

       

      Instead of Responding With Cops, Denver Sends Health Care Teams to Non-Criminal Calls — and It’s Already Saving Lives - Thought Nova, 3/5/2021

      By Joshua

      Thought Nova

      Instead of Responding With Cops, Denver Sends Health Care Teams to Non-Criminal Calls — and It’s Already Saving Lives

      instead of responding with cops, denver sends health care teams to non-criminal calls — and it’s already saving lives

      The program is called the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR), and it was launched back in June 2020. The goal was to ensure that vulnerable people get the assistance they need in a timely manner.

      The program has been up and running for several months. The team responded to 748 calls associated with low-level incidents. These incidents include mental health crises.

      The STAR team responds in place of the police, and reports indicate that the innovative program has been working very well.

      “This is good stuff, it’s great program, and basically, the report tells us what we believed.”

      A Different Level Of Care  

      Most of the calls eligible for STAR response were about trespassing/unwanted persons and welfare checks. Some of the calls also came from uniformed police officers requesting assistance on certain matters.

      The willingness of the police officers to utilize the program shows that they believe in it. According to Dr. Matthew Lunn, the program has been received very well:

      “I think it shows how much officers are buying into this, realizing that these individuals need a focused level of care.”

      Dr. Matthew Lunn helped author the report, which indicated that the STAR program was working as expected.

      Also, 33% of these people had other co-occurring issues, including substance abuse and homelessness.

      Based on the assessments done about the program so far, the STAR van should have more supplies. These should include blankets, clothing, cleaning supplies, and food.

      With these things, the team would have an easier time addressing immediate issues.

      More Funds Dedicated To The STAR Program

      Already, Denver city has put aside $1.4 million to help expand the program, with the Caring for Denver foundation. These resources will help provide the program with more vans and professionals to work 8-hour shifts that cover all hours of the week.

      According to Pazen, the police should focus on police issues:

      “We have more than enough work with regards to violent crime, property crime, and traffic safety, and if something like STAR or any other support system can lighten the load on mental health calls for service, substance abuse calls for service, and low-level issues, that frees up law enforcement to address crime issues.”

      Many other police departments may try and replicate what the city of Denver has done. Especially in consideration of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. Many stakeholders are trying to find a solution that helps improve the strained relationship between the community and the police officers to make sure all people in society feel safe.

      Caring for Denver Foundation Seeks to Invest $10 Million in Supports to Improve the Provision of Care - Prime Time for Seniors, 2/28/2021

      Prime Time for Seniors

      Caring for Denver Foundation Seeks to Invest $10 Million in Supports to Improve the Provision of Care

      Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation is seeking to partner with organizations and agencies to increase Denver residents’ ability to find accessible, community-informed mental health and substance misuse care through a new Care Provision funding opportunity. The funding aims to foster a continuum of quality care that reflects, represents, and values unique cultures and needs, while also supporting caregivers with training in trauma-informed practices, and resources to reduce turnover and burnout.

      The Denver community defines how Caring for Denver addresses the city’s mental health and substance misuse needs. Building on priorities identified through a robust community engagement process, the Foundation interviewed community thought partners to define Denver’s current care provision needs, which include:

      • Trusted, accessible care that fits Denverites’ needs;
      • Care providers that have what they need to provide high-quality, culturally informed care; and
      • More effective coordination between available resources to ensure the consumer comes first.

      “Now more than ever, Denver needs care provision that understands and reflects the needs of our communities and ensures when someone reaches out, they can connect with needed and trusted mental health and substance misuse supports,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation.

      “It’s a challenging time for all of us. This funding seeks to make it easier to find the right care that people need and meets them where they are,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair of Caring for Denver.

      Funding for this initiative is currently open for applications, with a deadline of March 18, 2020.

      About Caring for Denver Foundation
      Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action.

      COVID In Colorado: Center For African American Health Meeting Needs Of Black Community - CBS Denver, 2/23/2021

      By Libby Smith

      CBS Denver

      COVID In Colorado: Center For African American Health Meeting Needs Of Black Community

      DENVER (CBS4)The Center for African American Health is among the community organizations that stepped up dramatically in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

      “We really do our best to respond to community needs and requests,” said Deidre Johnson, Executive Director and CEO of the Center for African American Health. “We immediately took all of our programs virtual. We’ve actually been able to raise and distribute over $165,000 in emergency funds. We were helping people with food, rent, a lot of utility work, and prescriptions.”

      The Center also became a PPP staging ground and distribution point. It’s a community COVID testing site, distributed flu vaccine shots, and most recently became coronavirus vaccination site.

      “It’s getting started and kind of making its way. It could have been a lot more organized. There’s so many lessons we learned this summer with having in community testing sites and I think, had our partners started with that vaccine wise, we’d be a little bit further ahead. But now everybody is very responsive, and very optimistic,” Johnson said of Colorado’s rollout of the vaccine.

      The Center for African American Health is holding its 19th annual Black Health Fair on February 26th and 27th, 2021. There will be 17 virtual session, including a keynote speech by Dr. Terri Richardson about COVID in the Black community.

      “We has so many sessions requested that we had to close the door and stop it. We’re packed,” Johnson explained. “We’ve got a great menu for folks. It’s all about health and wellness, and keeping community safe.”

      There will also be sessions on mental health advice, and a legislative panel.

      “We always like to have a bit of movement, so Mr. Charles will be joining us, and entertainment, Tony XM will be appearing Friday night for half-an-hour. And I was able to get our own Dianne Reeves to help us with the  opening Saturday morning. So even though people are tired of all this  online, it will be well worth everybody’s while.”

      (credit Center for African American Health)

      The new year is bringing new services to the Center for African American Health. In 2021, the Center is expanding its mental health offerings.

      “With the generous support of the Caring for Denver Foundation, we actually received a grant to start providing services with our partner, Element of Discovery: Therapists of Color Collaborative. So we’ll be able to have the community come to us, we’ll do the screening and then refer them to a therapist of color.”

      The grant money covers patients in Denver. Now the Center for African American Health will start fundraising to pay for these service to people along the Front Range.

      The Center for African American Health’s Collaborative Black Health Summit runs Friday, February 26th from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. & Saturday, February 27th from 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Registration is required.

      Advocates of STAR program look to ways of evaluating its long-term success - Colorado Politics, 2/19/2021

      By Julia Cardi

      Colorado Politics

      Advocates of STAR program look to ways of evaluating its long-term success

      IMG_9495 (2).JPG
      Denver police Chief Paul Pazen during an April 9, 2020, press conference expresses gratitude to the community for supporting first responders amid the coronavirus pandemic.

      The new year has marked something of a crossroads for Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response pilot program, also known as STAR, which has replaced police officer responses with paramedics and mental health clinicians in low-level, nonviolent situations.

      City Council approved $3 million for the program last fall in Mayor Michael Hancock’s 2021 budget, and a recent progress report showed promising early results: The STAR team responded to 748 calls in its first six months that did not require police or lead to arrests, and based on data collected, the report estimates the program could reduce calls for service by Denver police by about 2.8%.

      Police and the community organizations involved with STAR’s implementation and operations cheer the program’s early success, but recognize it needs to be viewed as one piece in increasing resources — such as mental health care, substance use treatment and housing services — to address the issues that put people in crisis and prompted a 911 call in the first place. 

      DASHR has helped lead the program’s evaluation based on data and facilitated conversations about its expansion.

      Tracking the number of times responders connect a person to long-term services such as mental health or substance use treatment is a key metric, he said. 

      “How do we measure a mental health crisis that hasn’t happened, or a substance use issue that hasn’t happened? You know, the things that the STAR program is actually responding to,” Cervantes said. “And in this case it’s more, how can we reduce crisis that occurs that people are being repeatedly contacted through the criminal justice system or the STAR program?”

      She said the practical gesture by STAR responders of carrying supplies for immediate needs a person might have, such as snacks, hand warmers and supplies for sterile drug injections, has often helped open a door to deeper conversations with them about their needs.

      “If you can make people feel comfortable, you can not only tell people that you’re there to help, but you can show them in some small way. That oftentimes really helps build a rapport,” Sailon said. 

      The pilot stage of the program runs through May this year, and it has received its money from the sales tax-supported Caring for Denver fund. But the contract and budget transitioned from the Denver Police Department to the Department of Public Health and Environment on Jan. 1 after City Council approved the transition as part of Hancock’s 2021 budget request, while Denver 911 continues to operate STAR. 

      “I think it’s more of a narrative choice, I think for me, that establishes a public health perspective versus a public safety perspective,” Cervantes said of the transition. 

      The program has a goal with extra funding of expanding to have four vans and six response teams — each made up of a medic and a clinician — to operate seven days a week. For Pazen, his focus remains on the program’s outcomes rather than who operates it. 

      “This is a win-win all the way around, right?” he said. “The person in crisis gets better outcomes. The police department is freed up to address these significant challenges that we have with crime and traffic safety. The community at large benefits because you have the appropriate response on individuals in crisis, and you have freed up this resource of law enforcement to do what they’re trained to do.”

       

      When Compassion Works Instead Of Force: Denver Saving Lives By Sending Health Care Teams to Non-Criminal Calls - Healthy Happy News, 2/18/2021

      By Admin

      Healthy Happy News

      When Compassion Works Instead Of Force: Denver Saving Lives By Sending Health Care Teams to Non-Criminal Calls

      • The city of Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) has been effective that majority of their calls come from their fellow police officers who ask for assistance.
      • Instead of sending police officers to low-level incidents, the city of Denver sends health care workers.
      • The program has clothing, food, cleaning supplies, and blankets in their vans instead of guns.

      The city of Denver has introduced a program that sends out a health care team instead of cops for non-criminal calls.  And it is proving to be a safer way to respond.

      Last June, the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) was launched to respond to low-level incidents. The calls include mental health crises, welfare checks, trespassing, and uniformed officers who asked for assistance, among others. The mobile teams of health care workers instead of police officers is an innovation that has gotten a largely positive response from the community.

      There were no arrests or jail-time for these calls. Denver Police Department chief Paul Pazen said, “This is good stuff, it’s a great program, and basically, the report tells us what we believed.”

      Photo by Mental Health America (MHA) from Pexels

      According to Dr. Matthew Lunn, DPD program member and strategic initiatives coordinator, 34% of the STAR calls were assist calls from officers already engaged in an incident. This means that other police officers have faith in the program and use it.

      Dr. Lunn who is the author of the report said, “I think it shows how much officers are buying into this, realizing that these individuals need a focused level of care.”

      According to the STAR, 61% of the individuals they have encountered had mental health issues based on their assessment of their behavior and initial contact.  Homelessness or substance abuse made up 33%.

      Photo Credit: Denver Police Department

      Inside STAR vans are not weapons of war but for care: food, clothing, blankets, cleaning supplies, and cleaning supplies.

      The response has been heartwarming that the initial funding of $1.4 million for the service’s expansion has been matched by the Caring for Denver foundation!  This would mean expansion of the program and more supplied vans.  As well as professional manpower to allow 8-hour shifts, 24/7.

      Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

      Chief Pazen says this will allow the police department to focus on police issues. “We have more than enough work with regards to violent crime, property crime, and traffic safety, and if something like STAR or any other support system can lighten the load on mental health calls for service, substance abuse calls for service, and low-level issues, that frees up law enforcement to address crime issues,” Pazen added.

      This might just be the counter move to the protests against the police with the Black Lives Matter movement. Compassion does work.

      Source: Good News Network

      In the Midst of Heightened Mental Health and Substance Misuse Needs, Caring for Denver Foundation Seeks to Invest $10 Million in Supports to Improve the Provision of Care - Caring for Denver News Release, 2/16/2021

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
      February 16, 2021

      In the Midst of Heightened Mental Health and Substance Misuse Needs, Caring for Denver Foundation Seeks to Invest $10 Million in Supports to Improve the Provision of Care

      Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation is seeking to partner with organizations and agencies to increase Denver residents’ ability to find accessible, community-informed mental health and substance misuse care through a new Care Provision funding opportunity. The funding aims to foster a continuum of quality care that reflects, represents, and values unique cultures and needs, while also supporting caregivers with training in trauma-informed practices, and resources to reduce turnover and burnout.

      The Denver community defines how Caring for Denver addresses the city’s mental health and substance misuse needs. Building on priorities identified through a robust community engagement process, the Foundation interviewed community thought partners to define Denver’s current care provision needs, which include:

       

      • Trusted, accessible care that fits Denverites’ needs;
      • Care providers that have what they need to provide high-quality, culturally informed care; and
      • More effective coordination between available resources to ensure the consumer comes first.

      “Now more than ever, Denver needs care provision that understands and reflects the needs of our communities and ensures when someone reaches out, they can connect with needed and trusted mental health and substance misuse supports,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation.

      “It’s a challenging time for all of us. This funding seeks to make it easier to find the right care that people need and meets them where they are,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair of Caring for Denver.

      Funding for this initiative is currently open for applications, with a deadline of March 18, 2020.

       

      About Caring for Denver Foundation
      Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action.

      About Lorez Meinhold
      Lorez Meinhold serves as the Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation. She brings more than 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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Foundation Board.

      Instead of Responding With Cops, Denver Sends Health Care Teams to Non-Criminal Calls — and It’s Already Saving Lives - Good News Network, 2/15/2021

      By Andy Corbley

      Good News Network

      Instead of Responding With Cops, Denver Sends Health Care Teams to Non-Criminal Calls — and It’s Already Saving Lives

      A pilot program where teams of social workers and paramedics respond to certain non-criminal complaints in Denver is showing early success.

      Denver Police Department

      The Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program was launched in June to help ensure the vulnerable get the help they need.

      Over the course of six months, 748 calls relating to low-level incidents—such as mental health crises—were responded to by mobile teams of STAR health care workers instead of police officers.

      Six months after it began, STAR’s first progress report has now been published, and it shows the innovative program is working.

      According to Denver Police Department (DPD) chief Paul Pazen, none of these low-level calls ended in arrests or jail-time, and no police officer needed to be called to the scene. “This is good stuff, it’s a great program, and basically, the report tells us what we believed,” Pazen told The Denverite

      Foundation for success

      The majority of the STAR-eligible calls were for trespassing/unwanted persons, welfare checks, and from uniformed officers asking for assistance in ongoing matters.

      In fact, of all the incidents STAR responded to, 34% were assist calls from officers already engaged in an incident, which program member and strategic initiatives coordinator for the DPD, Dr. Matthew Lunn, says is a good sign: It means police officers believe in the program and want to utilize it.

      “I think it shows how much officers are buying into this, realizing that these individuals need a focused level of care,” said Lunn, who authored the report.

      Indeed, 61% of individuals encountered by STAR were identified as perhaps having a mental health issue based on initial contact and behavioral assessment, with 33% also having co-occurring conditions, such as homelessness or substance abuse.

      Lessons learned suggested that the STAR van should be stocked with more supplies, especially blankets, clothing, cleaning supplies, and food, which would allow the team to quickly address immediate issues.

      The city of Denver has allocated $1.4 million to expand the service, and the Caring for Denver foundation has matched those funds. This will help the program expand to having multiple supplied vans—with enough professionals to work 8-hour shifts covering all hours of the week.

      “I want the police department to focus on police issues,” Pazen told The Denverite. “We have more than enough work with regards to violent crime, property crime, and traffic safety, and if something like STAR or any other support system can lighten the load on mental health calls for service, substance abuse calls for service, and low-level issues, that frees up law enforcement to address crime issues.”

      Given the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020, it seems likely that increasing numbers of police departments around the world will follow in Denver’s footsteps—turning inward to see what can be done to improve the relationship between their officers and their communities—so everyone feels safe.

      Denver successfully sent mental health professionals, not police, to hundreds of calls - USA TODAY, 2/6/2021

      By Grace Hauck

      USA TODAY

      Denver successfully sent mental health professionals, not police, to hundreds of calls

      Another U.S. city is reporting early success with a program that replaces traditional law enforcement responders with health care workers for some emergency calls.

      Previously, Denver 911 operators only directed calls to police or fire department first responders. But the Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) pilot program created a third track for directing emergency calls to a two-person team: a medic and a clinician, staffed in a van from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.

      The STAR program, which launched in June, reported promising results in its six-month progress report. The program aims to provide a “person-centric mobile crisis response” to community members who are experiencing problems related to mental health, depression, poverty, homelessness, or substance abuse issues.

      Denver is among several U.S. cities working to develop an alternative emergency responder model for people who are experiencing mental health crises, as police officers fatally shoot hundreds of people experiencing mental health crises every year, according to a Washington Post database of fatal shootings by on-duty police officers. Since 2015, police have fatally shot nearly 1,400 people with mental illnesses, according to the database.

      Over the first six months of the pilot, Denver received more than 2,500 emergency calls that fell into the STAR program’s purview, and the STAR team was able to respond to 748 calls. No calls required the assistance of police, and no one was arrested.

      Denver police responded to nearly 95,000 incidents over the same period, suggesting that an expanded STAR program could reduce police calls by nearly 3%, according to the report.

      “Overall, the first six months has kind of been a proof of concept of what we wanted,” said Vinnie Cervantes, a member of Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, one of the organizations involved with the STAR program. “We’ve continued to try to work to make it something that is truly a community-city partnership.”

      Data collected during the pilot program found that STAR calls were focused in certain areas of the city, and most were calls for trespassing and welfare checks. Approximately 68% of people contacted were experiencing homelessness, and there were mental health concerns in 61% of cases – largely schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder – with 33% of people having co-occurring conditions, according to the report.

      The report comes on the heels of a year that saw thousands of protests nationwide in response to the killings of several Black men and women, as well as a series of high-profile police killings of people experiencing mental health crises, including Daniel Prude in Rochester, New York, and Walter Wallace, Jr. in Philadelphia. Many protesters called on their local governments to redirect funding away from police departments.

      In recent years, some police departments, such as in Los Angeles and San Antonio, have partnered with mental health professionals to work as “co-responders,” assisting street cops responding to incidents involving a mental health crisis. In the wake of Breonna Taylor’s killing in Louisville last year, the city increased its police budget and put money toward exploring co-responder models. And Chicago is expected to begin piloting a co-responder program this year.

      But other cities rely on emergency response models that do not involve police. The Denver program is modeled after the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) in Eugene, Oregon. White Bird Clinic, a health care center in the city, launched the program as a community policing initiative in 1989.

      Like the Denver program, CAHOOTS responds to a range of mental health-related crises and relies on techniques that are focused on harm reduction. With a budget of about $2.1 million annually, CAHOOTS answered 17% of the Eugene Police Department’s overall call volume in 2017, according to the program.

      In 2019, Cervantes traveled with a group from Denver to Eugene to study the CAHOOTS model. Cervantes said his organization, the Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, is working with about ten other cities in Colorado to draft co-responder models. Aurora – where 23-year-old Elijah McClain died after officers stopped him on the street in 2019 – is expected to launch its pilot in about a month, Cervantes said.

      On the East Coast, New York City announced plans in November to launch a similar pilot program in two neighborhoods.

      For the coming year, Denver has allocated $1.4 million in the city’s budget to continue the STAR program, according to the report. The funding would be enough to purchase four additional vans and fund six new two-person teams, as well as a full-time supervisor, the report said. The program is also transitioning from the city’s safety department to its public health department.

      Cervantes said that, as the program goes forward, he hopes to see more complete data on who the program is serving. Current data does not list race or ethnicity for a third of people served by the program, Cervantes said.

      “That’s something that surprises me,” Cervantes said. “How do we really understand the impact of the most marginalized communities in Denver if we don’t have the data there?”

      Cervantes said the STAR program set out to connect residents in crisis with social services in the city, as well as identify the gaps in many of the services. When the coronavirus pandemic shut down many of the existing services, it made STAR’s task more difficult.

      “With COVID, some of the services that would typically be available weren’t quite in full service. That’s something the STAR program had to adapt to,” he said.

      The STAR program is organized through a coalition of city agencies and organizations, including the Denver Police Department, Denver Health Paramedic Division, Denver 911, the Caring for Denver Foundation, the Mental Health Center of Denver and community supporters.

       

      Health care workers replaced Denver cops in handling hundreds of mental health and substance abuse cases — and officials say it saved lives - CBS News, 2/6/2021

      By Li Cohen

      CBS News

      Health care workers replaced Denver cops in handling hundreds of mental health and substance abuse cases — and officials say it saved lives

      A program that replaces police officers with health care workers on mental health and substance abuse calls in Denver, Colorado, is showing signs of success, according to a six-month progress report. Despite responding to hundreds of calls, the workers made no arrests, the report said — and the city’s police chief told CBS News on Friday that he believes the program “saves lives.”

      Under the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program, health care workers are dispatched in lieu of police when responding to incidents involving issues with mental health, poverty, homelessness or substance abuse. STAR providers only respond to incidents in which there is no evidence of criminal activity, disturbance, weapons, threats, violence, injuries or “serious” medical needs.

      During the first six months of the program, from June 1 to November 30, health professionals responded to 748 calls, including trespassing, welfare checks, narcotic incidents, and mental health episodes, according to the report. None of those cases required help from Denver police and no individuals were arrested.

      Police chief Paul Pazen told CBS News that all of those calls were a success.

      “That’s 748 times fewer that the police department was called, meaning we can free up law enforcement to do what law enforcement is supposed to do, and really what law enforcement is good at, and that is addressing crime issues, violent crime, property crime and traffic safety,” he said. “…You have a safer community and you have better outcomes for people in crisis.”

      Pazen recalled one case in which an individual was complaining of their feet hurting. Under typical circumstances, Pazen said, an ambulance, police and maybe a firetruck would have been dispatched to the scene. Instead, workers equipped with food, water, and hygiene products handled the situation.

      p1010046.jpg

      Under the STAR program, health providers use vans such as these equipped with food, water and other resources to travel to incidents.  Denver Police Department

      “They needed shoes, so [the STAR] team just bought the guy a new pair of shoes,” Pazen said. “The typical answer to that would have been to take that person to the hospital. Imagine what that would have cost in response. Imagine what that would have cost in medical bills, for the physician to say the guy needs a new pair of shoes.”

      The health care workers are intentionally given cases that are less likely to result in police use of force. But as the deaths of Daniel PrudePatrick Warren Sr. and countless others have shown, police responses to such cases can end in tragedy.

      People who have untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter, and those who have an untreated severe mental illness are involved in up to half of all fatal police shootings, according to research by the Treatment Advocacy Center.

      In 2020, Mapping Police Violence found that 94 people were killed by police who had responded to reports of someone behaving erratically or having a mental health crisis.

      “By dismantling the mental illness treatment system, we have turned mental health crisis from a medical issue into a police matter,” John Snook, executive director and a co-author of the Treatment Advocacy Center study, said in a press release. “This is patently unfair, illogical and is proving harmful both to the individual in desperate need of care and the officer who is forced to respond.”

      Going into 2020, Denver police said they found that calls for mental health assistance were 17% higher than the three-year average. Of the cases to which STAR responded, nearly 60% of the people who had diagnosed mental health issues were affected by schizoaffective disorder, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder.

      Similar programs to STAR have been rolled out elsewhere in the U.S. STAR was modeled after the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets (CAHOOTS) program in Eugene, Oregon, which also uses unarmed intervention members to respond to mental health calls without police backup.

      Denver’s latest program is just one aspect of the police department’s “layered” approaching to tackling issues in the community, Pazen told CBS News.

      The city also has three other alternative response programs, including a co-responder program that pairs police with licensed professional behavioral health clinicians to respond to incidents in which people are experiencing behavioral health or substance abuse issues, Pazen said. The department has seven case managers who follow-up with people who were assisted by co-responders or the STAR team, or who were referred by police officers.

      While the analysis of the first six months of program found “no concerning issues” and said the program is accomplishing its goal, it also noted that the only way to measure wide-scale effectiveness is to apply it to a larger area over a longer period of time.

      STAR teams were only able to be used in certain areas from Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the pilot period.

      The program is ongoing, and Pazen said the Denver mayor has committed $1.4 million from the city’s general fund to expand the service. The program is also expected to receive an additional $1.4 million in matching funds from Caring for Denver, a foundation that funded the pilot program, and $200,000 carried over from the pilot funding from Caring for Denver.

      This, Pazen said, will allow the program to be used seven days a week in more areas.

      “We must be mindful that the data is from a small window of time, in one area of the city, during the busiest months of the year for call volume, and co-occurring with a global pandemic,” the report states. “…The STAR program has been successful based on the metrics and program goals we evaluated. However, the STAR program will continue to be successful only if the City can continue to engage and build with the community.”

      During his campaign, President Biden said his administration would fund initiatives to pair police departments with mental health professionals, substance use disorder experts, social workers and disability advocates.

      A national rollout such of a comprehensive program like Denver’s, Pazen said, could play a major role in that plan.

      “I think it saves lives,” he said. “It prevents tragedies.”

       

       

      26 nonprofits receive Caring for Denver grants - The Washington Park Profile, 12/30/20

      By Christy Steadman

      The Washington Park Profile

      26 nonprofits receive Caring for Denver grants

      Funding will support mental health, fight against substance misuse in community

      The goal is to do more to support mental health and the fight against substance misuse in the Denver community.

      In November 2018, Denver voters approved a mental health funding sales tax that puts $0.25 per $100 spent into a community fund for mental health and substance misuse issues. Tasked with prioritizing those funds was the newly formed Caring for Denver Foundation.

      The foundation got to work and engaged with more than 1,600 Denver residents and identified four areas that have the most immediate needs. They are: youth; alternatives to jail; care provision to ensure more people in Denver have access to resources, support and services at the time they need it; and community-centered solutions that make use of “community knowledge, strengths and resources to foster local connectedness and support,” states a news release.

      Throughout 2020, Caring for Denver announced funding for various contemporary issues, ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to criminal justice concerning response to mental health and substance misuse crises.

      In early December, Caring for Denver made another announcement that more than $5.6 million in funding will go to 26 local nonprofits — each led by a person with lived experience or by community members the organization serves.

      MORE: Spotlight on the nonprofits

      “People recover in community — rarely do they recover in isolation,” said Lorez Meinhold, executive director of Caring for Denver, in a news release. “We’re incredibly eager to partner with the community on solutions that meet people where they are and reinforce their strengths.”

      These particular grants “prioritize access, cultural relevance and community collaboration. Grantees will provide supports accessible in places and spaces people live, know, visit, learn and trust,” states a news release.

      “The mental health crisis in Denver, alongside the entire nation, has only been exacerbated by COVID-19 — from the fear of getting the virus to the lack of physical contact with our friends and family. This virus is taking a toll on all of us,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, in a news release. Herod serves as Caring for Denver’s board chair. “Caring for Denver funding will be transformative for tens of thousands of Denverites by providing tools and opportunities for the community to connect and cope together safely.”

      Benefits in Action www.benefitsinaction.org

      The Center for African American Health caahealth.org

      Centro Humanitario www.centrohumanitario.org

      CHARG Resource Center www.charg.org

      Cleo Parker Robinson Dance cleoparkerdance.org

      Colorado Artists in Recovery www.coloradoartistsinrecovery.org

      Colorado Gerontological Society senioranswers.org

      Colorado Village Collaborative www.coloradovillagecollaborative.org

      D3 Arts www.d3arts.org

      Denver Children’s Advocacy Center www.denvercac.org

      Denver Public Library Friends www.dplfriends.org

      The Don’t Look Back Center thedontlookbackcenter.org

      Envision: You www.envision-you.org

      The Gathering Place tgpdenver.org

      La Cocina www.lacocinahome.org

      Mirror Image Arts www.mirrorimagearts.org

      Montbello Organizing Committee www.montbelloorganizing.org

      PlatteForum platteforum.org

      Project Helping projecthelping.org

      Sisters of Color United for Education socue.org

      Sober AF Entertainment www.soberafe.com

      Soul 2 Soul Sisters soul2soulsisters.org

      The Storytellers Project www.storytellersproject.com

      Think 360 Arts for Learning think360arts.org

      ViVe www.vivewellness.org

      Youth Seen youthseen.org

      26 nonprofits receive Caring for Denver grants - Life on Capitol Hill, 12/30/20

      By Christy Steadman

      Life on Capitol Hill

      26 nonprofits receive Caring for Denver grants

      Funding will support mental health, fight against substance misuse in community

      The goal is to do more to support mental health and the fight against substance misuse in the Denver community.

      In November 2018, Denver voters approved a mental health funding sales tax that puts $0.25 per $100 spent into a community fund for mental health and substance misuse issues. Tasked with prioritizing those funds was the newly formed Caring for Denver Foundation.

      The foundation got to work and engaged with more than 1,600 Denver residents and identified four areas that have the most immediate needs. They are: youth; alternatives to jail; care provision to ensure more people in Denver have access to resources, support and services at the time they need it; and community-centered solutions that make use of “community knowledge, strengths and resources to foster local connectedness and support,” states a news release.

      Throughout 2020, Caring for Denver announced funding for various contemporary issues, ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to criminal justice concerning response to mental health and substance misuse crises.

      In early December, Caring for Denver made another announcement that more than $5.6 million in funding will go to 26 local nonprofits — each led by a person with lived experience or by community members the organization serves.

      MORE: Spotlight on the nonprofits

      “People recover in community — rarely do they recover in isolation,” said Lorez Meinhold, executive director of Caring for Denver, in a news release. “We’re incredibly eager to partner with the community on solutions that meet people where they are and reinforce their strengths.”

      These particular grants “prioritize access, cultural relevance and community collaboration. Grantees will provide supports accessible in places and spaces people live, know, visit, learn and trust,” states a news release.

      “The mental health crisis in Denver, alongside the entire nation, has only been exacerbated by COVID-19 — from the fear of getting the virus to the lack of physical contact with our friends and family. This virus is taking a toll on all of us,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, in a news release. Herod serves as Caring for Denver’s board chair. “Caring for Denver funding will be transformative for tens of thousands of Denverites by providing tools and opportunities for the community to connect and cope together safely.”

      Benefits in Action www.benefitsinaction.org

      The Center for African American Health caahealth.org

      Centro Humanitario www.centrohumanitario.org

      CHARG Resource Center www.charg.org

      Cleo Parker Robinson Dance cleoparkerdance.org

      Colorado Artists in Recovery www.coloradoartistsinrecovery.org

      Colorado Gerontological Society senioranswers.org

      Colorado Village Collaborative www.coloradovillagecollaborative.org

      D3 Arts www.d3arts.org

      Denver Children’s Advocacy Center www.denvercac.org

      Denver Public Library Friends www.dplfriends.org

      The Don’t Look Back Center thedontlookbackcenter.org

      Envision: You www.envision-you.org

      The Gathering Place tgpdenver.org

      La Cocina www.lacocinahome.org

      Mirror Image Arts www.mirrorimagearts.org

      Montbello Organizing Committee www.montbelloorganizing.org

      PlatteForum platteforum.org

      Project Helping projecthelping.org

      Sisters of Color United for Education socue.org

      Sober AF Entertainment www.soberafe.com

      Soul 2 Soul Sisters soul2soulsisters.org

      The Storytellers Project www.storytellersproject.com

      Think 360 Arts for Learning think360arts.org

      ViVe www.vivewellness.org

      Youth Seen youthseen.org

      Envision: You Awarded Caring for Denver Grant - Out Front, 12/8/20

      By Denny Patterson

      Out Front

      Envision:You, a Colorado, LGBTQ, mental health and substance use disorder initiative, has been awarded a grant from Caring for Denver Foundation for increasing awareness and availability of affirming and culturally relevant behavioral health services for LGBTQ Denver residents.

      The nonprofit will use the $71,589 grant to expand the “How to Have the Talk” campaign and launch its LGBTQ-affirming training for behavioral health therapists.

      “We are grateful for Caring for Denver’s support of Envision:You’s mission to support, educate, and empower LGBTQ individuals living with a mental health and substance use disorder,” CEO and co-founder Steven Haden said. “We know that individuals who identify as part of the LGBTQ community are disproportionately affected by mental health and substance misuse. Our programs are rooted in cultural relevance and target to the specific issues that are prevalent in the queer community to increase access care and breakdown barriers.”The “How to Have the Talk” campaign launched in November and is specifically designed for the LGBTQ community to encourage individuals to have tough talks and get help. Resources such as conversation starters and frequently asked questions are aimed to guide a friend or loved one to support someone who is experiencing a behavioral health issue. The grant funds will broaden the reach to the Spanish-speaking community and disseminate the materials at LGBTQ events throughout Denver in 2021.

      LGBTQ individuals often experience troubling encounters with mental health providers who do not fully understand or appreciate the concerns that stem from being a part of a marginalized community. To address these needs, Envision:You developed a multi-phase, in-person, and online training program to address implicit and explicit biases that exist among behavioral health practitioners that hinder so many in their recovery process. The grant funds will be used to launch this program and train behavioral therapists throughout Denver in 2021.

      Envision:You Launches “How to Have the Talk” Campaign

      “We need to do better for those with mental health and substance misuse needs,” Executive Director for Caring for Denver Foundation Lorez Meinhold said. “Envision:You’s innovative and community centered solutions to raise awareness and provide culturally affirming care will make a meaningful difference to the LGBTQ community in Denver.”

      If you or someone you know is experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis, contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling (844) 493-8255, or text TALK to 38255.

      For more information on Envision:You, visit their official website.

       

      Caring for Denver Foundation gives $5.6 million to community mental health organizations - Colorado Politics, 12/6/20

      By Hannah Metzger, The Denver Gazette

      Colorado Politics

      Backers of Denver's mental-health tax measure say they'll file plenty of signatures

      Andrew Romanoff, then president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado, and state Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denve announce the Caring 4 Denver initiative outside the Colorado Capitol in 2018.

      The Caring for Denver Foundation has approved 26 grants totaling over $5.6 million for community organizations aiming to address mental health and substance abuse issues.

      The grants promote community-based support by prioritizing access, culture and collaboration during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      “We’re incredibly eager to partner with the community on solutions that meet people where they are and reinforce their strengths,” said Executive Director Lorez Meinhold. “People recover in community, rarely do they recover in isolation.”

      Awarded organizations include the Center for African American Health, Centro Humanitario, Denver Children’s Advocacy Center, Project Helping, Sisters of Color United for Education and Youth Seen.

      “The mental health crisis in Denver, alongside the entire nation, has only been exacerbated by COVID-19,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, board chair of the foundation.

      The foundation and awarded organizations intend to provide support to reduce isolation among Denver residents. Those who use the supports will inform the organizations of their effectiveness and provide feedback.

      The funding program was designed to connect with those in need by giving grants to organizations led by people with lived experience in mental health and substance abuse or by members of the community the organization serves.

      Caring for Denver Foundation Approves $5.6 Million in Grants to Support Community-Centered Solutions - Western Slope Now, 12/2/2020

      Western Slope Now

      DENVER, Colo. – Caring for Denver Foundation, under leadership from Executive Director Lorez Meinhold and Board Chair State Representative Leslie Herod, recently approved 26 grants totaling more than $5.6 million for Denver organizations to strengthen community-centered solutions for mental health and substance misuse needs. 

      These grants promote innovative community-based mental health, and substance misuse supports that prioritize access, cultural relevance, and community collaboration. Grantees will provide supports accessible in places and spaces people live, know, visit, learn, and trust. 

      Through these efforts, Caring for Denver, in collaboration with community partners and agencies, will increase connections that reduce isolation and increase the use of mental health and substance misuse supports. 

      Caring for Denver and its partners designed this funding to meet people where they are and create impactful community solutions. Each funded organization is led either by persons with lived experience related to mental health and substance misuse or by members of the community the organization serves. Community members who will use these supports will inform or co-create each funded organization’s activities and services to ensure it works for them. Organizations will also utilize natural access points in the community and partner with formal care providers or crisis systems to identify higher-level needs. 

      Grantees include:

      • Benefits in Action
      • The Center for African American Health
      • Centro Humanitario 
      • CHARG Resource Center 
      • Cleo Parker Robinson Dance 
      • Colorado Artists in Recovery 
      • Colorado Gerontological Society 
      • Colorado Village Collaborative 
      • D3 Arts 
      • Denver Children’s Advocacy Center 
      • Denver Public Library Friends 
      • The Don’t Look Back Center 
      • Envision: You 
      • The Gathering Place 
      • La Cocina 
      • Mirror Image Arts 
      • Montbello Organizing Committee 
      • Platteforum 
      • Project Helping 
      • Sisters of Color United for Education 
      • Sober AF Entertainment 
      • Soul 2 Soul Sisters
      • The Storytellers Project 
      • Think 360 Arts for Learning 
      • ViVe 
      • Youth Seen 

      “We’re incredibly eager to partner with the community on solutions that meet people where they are and reinforce their strengths. People recover in community – rarely do they recover in isolation,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director.

      “The mental health crisis in Denver, alongside the entire nation, has only been exacerbated by COVID19 — from the fear of getting the virus to the lack of physical contact with our friends and family, this virus is taking a toll on all of us. Caring for Denver funding will be transformative for tens of thousands of Denverites by providing tools and opportunities for the community to connect and cope together safely,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair.

      With robust input from more than 1,600 community residents, the Community-Centered Solutions priority area—along with three other priority funding areas: Alternatives to Jail, Youth, and Care Provision—were identified as the most immediate areas of need. Download the full strategic funding priorities report at caring4denver.org/about/reports.

      Caring for Denver Foundation Approves $5.6 Million in Grants to Support Community-Centered Solutions - Caring for Denver Foundation News Release, 12/2/2020

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
      December 2, 2020

      Caring for Denver Foundation Approves $5.6 Million in Grants to Support Community-Centered Solutions

      Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation, under leadership from Executive Director Lorez Meinhold and Board Chair State Representative Leslie Herod, recently approved 26 grants totaling more than $5.6 million for Denver organizations to strengthen community-centered solutions for mental health and substance misuse needs.

      These grants promote innovative community-based mental health, and substance misuse supports that prioritize access, cultural relevance, and community collaboration. Grantees will provide supports accessible in places and spaces people live, know, visit, learn, and trust.

      Through these efforts, Caring for Denver, in collaboration with community partners and agencies, will increase connections that reduce isolation and increase the use of mental health and substance misuse supports.

      Caring for Denver and its partners designed this funding to meet people where they are and create impactful community solutions. Each funded organization is led either by persons with lived experience related to mental health and substance misuse or by members of the community the organization serves. Community members who will use these supports will inform or co-create each funded organization’s activities and services to ensure it works for them. Organizations will also utilize natural access points in the community and partner with formal care providers or crisis systems to identify higher-level needs.

      Grantees include:

      • Benefits in Action
      • The Center for African American Health
      • Centro Humanitario
      • CHARG Resource Center
      • Cleo Parker Robinson Dance
      • Colorado Artists in Recovery
      • Colorado Gerontological Society
      • Colorado Village Collaborative
      • D3 Arts
      • Denver Children’s Advocacy Center
      • Denver Public Library Friends
      • The Don’t Look Back Center
      • Envision: You
      • The Gathering Place
      • La Cocina
      • Mirror Image Arts
      • Montbello Organizing Committee
      • Platteforum
      • Project Helping
      • Sisters of Color United for Education
      • Sober AF Entertainment
      • Soul 2 Soul Sisters
      • The Storytellers Project
      • Think 360 Arts for Learning
      • ViVe
      • Youth Seen

      “We’re incredibly eager to partner with the community on solutions that meet people where they are and reinforce their strengths. People recover in community – rarely do they recover in isolation,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director.

      “The mental health crisis in Denver, alongside the entire nation, has only been exacerbated by COVID19 — from the fear of getting the virus to the lack of physical contact with our friends and family, this virus is taking a toll on all of us. Caring for Denver funding will be transformative for tens of thousands of Denverites by providing tools and opportunities for the community to connect and cope together safely,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair.

      With robust input from more than 1,600 community residents, the Community-Centered Solutions priority area—along with three other priority funding areas: Alternatives to Jail, Youth, and Care Provision—were identified as the most immediate areas of need. Download the full strategic funding priorities report at caring4denver.org/about/reports.

      About Caring for Denver Foundation
      Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action.

      About Lorez Meinhold
      Lorez Meinhold serves as the Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation. She brings over twenty 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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Foundation Board.

      Caring For Denver Foundation Opens $10 Million Funding Opportunity - The Arapahoe Pinnacle, 12/2/2020

      By Zoe Wells

      The Arapahoe Pinnacle

      A new funding opportunity opens new doors for resources relating to mental health, trauma, and substance abuse from the Caring For Denver Foundation.

      On November 10th, 2020, the Caring For Denver Foundation opened $10 million to fund youth in need of services relating to mental health, trauma, and substance abuse. The foundation was founded and funded by voters in Colorado to address mental health and substance abuse needs within the community. As Colorado has been named for having the highest rate of deaths by overdose, this funding could save lives.

      Rep. and Board Chair of Caring For Denver Foundation Leslie Herod pictured here.

      It is “an opportunity for young people, who often feel invisible, to take the lead in shaping their futures”, says Board Chair of Caring For Denver Representative Leslie Herod. Continued by Lorez Meinhold, the Executive Director of Caring For Denver, “We are looking for innovative mental health and substance misuse approaches that are youth-led, focus on the strengths of youth, and meet them where they are”. The main goals of this project are to:

      1. Reduce youth harm to self and others through addressing trauma, mental health, and substance misuse.
      2. Increase youth ability to demonstrate healthy resilience for coping with challenges and stresses in life.
      3. Increase awareness and involvement by family and allies in ways that help youth address trauma, mental health, and substance misuse.
      4. Improve mental health and/or reduced substance misuse by youth.

      As the deadline of December 17th for applications comes, Denver will see lives change before its eyes.

       

      Caring for Denver opens $10M grant opportunity to fund mental health, trauma and addiction support for youth - Colorado Politics, 11/10/2020

      By Alayna Alvarez

      Colorado Politics

      The Caring for Denver Foundation announced a $10 million grant opportunity on Tuesday for organizations working to provide mental health, trauma and substance misuse support for young people and their families.

      “We’re looking for innovative mental health and substance misuse approaches that are youth-led, focus on the strengths of youth, and meet them where they are,” Lorez Meinhold, executive director of the Caring for Denver Foundation, said in a statement Tuesday.

      Local organizations and agencies whose priorities are focused on empowering Denver’s youth are encouraged to apply for funding until the deadline of 7 p.m. Dec. 17. The goal of the grants will be to reduce youth harm, increase young people’s “resilience” to life pressures, improve mental health and address substance misuse issues.

      “It is important that youth themselves are part of the strategies and how services are delivered,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, who spearheaded the Caring for Denver ballot initiative and now serves as its board chair. “This is an opportunity for young people, who often feel invisible, to take the lead in shaping their futures.”

      Caring for Denver considers anyone up to age 26 as a youth, and the total amount available for all grant awards in this funding area is up to $10 million.

      “Budgets will be evaluated for their reasonableness,” according to the foundation. “If an organization has already received a grant from Caring for Denver, that will be taken into consideration as well.”

      Grant decisions will “favor” programs and projects that are youth-led or “youth-informed” and partner with young people in the work; focus on “innovative” approaches; are “meaningful to youth, where they are, and in the forms that work for them;” engage with young people youth who have been impacted by trauma and have inequitable access to resources and supports; and “value culture in healing and identity.”

      All award applicants will be notified of their application status by April 2021, according to the foundation.

       

      Caring for Denver Foundation Opens $10 Million Funding Opportunity to Support Mental Health, Trauma, and/or Substance Misuse Among Denver Youth - News Release, 11/10/2020

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
      November 10, 2020

      Caring for Denver Foundation Opens $10 Million Funding Opportunity to Support Mental Health, Trauma, and/or Substance Misuse Among Denver Youth

      Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation is seeking to partner with organizations and agencies to increase Denver youth’s resilience to life stresses and pressures, address mental health and substance misuse early, and provide supports for families and allies of youth to better support youth in their healing.

      Funding for youth is one of the priorities the Denver community identified through a robust engagement process that defines how Caring for Denver addresses the city’s mental health and substance misuse needs. Addressing mental health and substance misuse needs earlier in life leads to less crisis and less need for costly services later in life.

      Denver residents also shaped Caring for Denver’s deep commitment to supporting work that dismantles stigma and elevates the voices of those impacted. “We’re looking for innovative mental health and substance misuse approaches that are youth-led, focus on the strengths of youth, and meet them where they are,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation.

      With this investment in Denver youth, Caring for Denver aims to:

      1. Reduce youth harm to self and others through addressing trauma, mental health, and substance misuse
      2. Increase youth ability to demonstrate healthy resilience for coping with challenges and stresses in life
      3. Increase awareness and involvement by family and allies in ways that help youth address trauma, mental health, and substance misuse
      4. Improve mental health and/or reduced substance misuse by youth

      “It is important that youth themselves are part of the strategies and how services are delivered,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair of Caring for Denver, “This is an opportunity for young people, who often feel invisible, to take the lead in shaping their futures.”

      Funding for this initiative is currently open for applications, with a deadline of December 17, 2020.

      About Caring for Denver Foundation
      Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action.

      About Lorez Meinhold
      Lorez Meinhold serves as the Executive Director of Caring for Denver. She brings more than twenty 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. She 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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Board.

      From Citizen-Led Ballot Initiative to Community-Centered Solutions for Mental Health and Substance Misuse - Grantmakers in Health, 10/16/20

      Views from the Field

      Grantmakers in Health

      Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director, Caring for Denver Foundation

      A need to do better for those with mental health and substance misuse needs was the driving force behind the creation of Caring for Denver Foundation, a nonprofit foundation funded through a city municipal ballot. In 2018, Rep. Leslie Herod championed a citizen-led ballot initiative in Denver, Colorado. She saw firsthand what a lack of available services can do. Her sister has been in and out of the criminal justice system for at least 20 years, due in large part to mental health and substance abuse challenges. Her sister, like so many, never got adequate care. We must do better.

      Denver voters agreed. On November 6, 2018, 70 percent of voters approved the ballot initiative. For every $100 spent in Denver, 25 cents now goes toward addressing mental health and substance misuse. This equates to more than $35 million available (dependent on the economy) to fund behavioral health supports. The ordinance required a nonprofit organization administer these funds to be nimble and responsive to community needs. Today, Caring for Denver Foundation is up and running. Our mission is to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action. In less than one year of operation, we have funded 41 organizations and five City agencies and provided $17.3 million in funding to the Denver community.

      In our first few months as an organization, we prioritized connecting with the Denver community to gather perspectives and insights on what our initial funding priorities should be. These outreach events, both in-person, over the phone and online (in English and Spanish), led to engagement of 1,600 residents. We relied on their knowledge, experience, and collaboration to identify and inform our funding areas of:

      • Alternatives to Jail: Greater supports, connections, practices, and opportunities to redirect people with mental health and substance misuse crises away from the criminal justice system.
      • Community-Centered Solutions: Use community knowledge, strengths, and resources to foster local connectedness and support.
      • Youth (0-26): The earlier and more resources we can provide Denver’s youth, the less crisis and need for costly services later in life.
      • Care Provision: Better support access to quality mental health and substance misuse care at the right time.

      We continue to partner with community in many aspects of our work, seeking involvement and feedback in our processes and decisionmaking. We center our work on outcomes that put communities—and their potential—first.One of the first programs championed in partnership with community leaders and funded was the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) pilot program modeled after a similar program in Eugene, Oregon. The Denver STAR program, launched in June, is currently dispatching a paramedic and a mental health professional—instead of police—in a mobile unit to respond to someone in a mental health or substance misuse crisis, stabilize them, deescalate the situation, and divert individuals from the criminal justice system by connecting them with the appropriate community resources for ongoing care. This program is investing in a community-driven priority of ensuring persons with mental health and substance misuse issues have alternatives to jail that match and meet their needs.The STAR program is just one example of the alternative and innovative ways Caring for Denver is approaching streamlining access to support services and dismantling stigma associated with mental health and substance misuse. We have been keenly focused on identifying and using learning to understand the progress and outcomes of our investments and to help determine what is working and where opportunities exist for evolving as a foundation.Perhaps our biggest learning to date is that putting community at the center is transformational. Prioritizing partnership with community and those with lived experience has been pivotal in our work, helping us build community trust and providing opportunities to invest in community-driven resources and ideas we would not have been connected to otherwise. We are working hard to include the community in defining funding areas, refining visions for investment, proposal review, storytelling and messaging, and defining our role in the community with respect to equity. Some of our learnings from and with community to date include:

      Stories build community will and art is an intervention.

      • One of the primary ways the campaign garnered significant support was storytelling. Stories revealed in art, music, and spoken word helped Denver residents find commonality in a way that had, and continues to have, the power to normalize shared struggles with mental health and substance misuse. We are continuing to promote stories as a connector.
      • Community recognizes the arts as powerful solutions for substance misuse and mental health and requested funding be prioritized for innovative and authentic projects that promote the arts as prevention and intervention tools.

      Racial disparities are real and should drive investment if solutions are to be sustainable.We heard from trusted community thought partners and community that:

      • Racial and ethnic disparities are a defining characteristic of our criminal justice system, so we must prioritize solutions created by Black, Indigenous and people of color, who are disproportionately impacted.
      • Involving community-based leaders and lived experience, like peer navigation and mentorship, is a key to success.
      • Community wanted Caring for Denver to make public that addressing disparities is a priority. A public commitment was as necessary for building trust as our financial investment, and we are now defining the actions that will ensure we make good on that commitment.

      Community is central for healing and it is not always a place.

      • Community members told us more mental health and substance misuse supports need to be locally available and community-authored, helping to ensure people can access supports in times and spaces that make sense for their schedules, life experiences, and cultural histories.
      • We also heard the importance of defining community as more than just a place. It can be a group of belonging defined by the commonalities of the people involved rather than the geography in which they reside.

      Learning is a welcomed and helpful approach in the funding space.

      • Instead of requiring logic models and evaluation plans upfront in applications, we have asked grantees to have conversations with us about the work they plan to do and the outcomes they hope to achieve. These conversations have been full of excitement, motivation, and nuances often not described in written applications. In exploring work with grantees, we are discovering important factors in their work (the “secret sauce”) to measure and learn about that may have otherwise been left out.
      • Grantees already have great insights and questions about their work that are right-sized and meaningful for supporting progress, improvements, and adaptations. By taking opportunities to listen to their ideas and expertise, we are more clearly understanding their work. This listening is also shedding light on the community contexts, both facilitating and creating barriers to change. By having a more realistic understanding of the current system from those deeply impacted by it, we hope to improve and refine our funding strategies to address systems changes that promote long-term grantee success.
      • As an organization, we have fully committed to being a learning foundation. We have chosen to take the same learning approach internally, and we include community feedback in our learning. We have been able to refine our funding application, organizational strategy and actions in real-time, and create an organizational culture that values learning and reflection.

      In the coming months, we are eager to start assessing the progress of the Foundation’s investments. After all, investments only matter if they are meaningful. This fall, we will evaluate our investments in community supports to address COVID-related trauma, mental health and substance misuse needs, and start our first learning cycles with our Alternatives to Jail grantees. We understand these issues are complex.  We don’t expect to see shifts in the community overnight, but we do expect to be able to show the beginnings of positive changes. We look forward to sharing what we learn with the Denver community and with other foundations as we continue to support community solutions to addressing mental health and substance misuse needs.

      Denver City Council proposes more than a half-dozen changes to Mayor Hancock’s budget - Colorado Politics, 10/13/20

      Denver City Council President Stacie Gilmore delivered a letter to Mayor Michael Hancock at noon Friday requesting seven changes to his proposed $2.1 billion budget for next year, a time in which the city must close a budget shortfall estimated at $190 million, thanks to the pandemic.

      “Denver City Council began to prepare for the 2021 budget process in July of this year. A year that we have faced a global pandemic, civil rights movement, and economic uncertainty,” Gilmore said in a statement. ‘While our city’s general fund faces difficult shortfalls, we as City Council have carried forward the voices and values of equity for our constituents into the budget hearings and our 2021 budget requests.”

      Of the council’s appeals, the most robust is to triple the funding for the city’s Support Team Assisted Response, or STAR program, which sends some low-level 911 calls to mental health professionals instead of police.

      Hancock had allocated $1 million in 2021 to expand the pilot program, which was previously funded by a grant from the Caring for Denver Foundation. The mayor also planned to transfer STAR from the police department’s oversight and into 911 operations.

      But the 13-member council, whose ears have been flooded with cries to defund the police for months, wants $3 million for a “phased expansion” of STAR teams and vehicles to cover each of the city’s six police districts before the end of next year. The council also requested that the program be moved out of 911 operations and placed under the city’s health department.

      The council suggested the funds be drawn from the Denver Police Department’s budget or the Fair Elections Fund, which was passed by Denver voters in 2018 and provides public matching funds to candidates for municipal offices.

      “This request advances equity through providing non-police resources to reframe safety in a public health, evidence-based and anti-racist approach,” the council’s four-page letter reads to the mayor.

      The council set budget priorities in July during their annual retreat, where they agreed to use the city’s stretched resources to address emergencies and the “intense desire” for substantive change with the goal of rebuilding Denver’s economy and communities more equitably than before.

      Gilmore and President Pro Tem Jamie Torres, who were unanimously elected to lead the council in July, said before budget hearings began that they were eager for change and the opportunity to apply a “critical equity lens” to the budget to better serve those “who have long gone overlooked and under-consulted.”

      The Denver City Council conducted 19 budget hearings with multiple city agencies, some of whom they heard from directly for the first time, including the Office of Children’s Affairs, the Office of the Independent Monitor, and Human Rights and Community Partnership.

      Those meetings helped inform the other six changes the council is requesting, such as $220,000 to reinstate funding for five transportation management associations, which the body said have been “an invaluable partner to Denver for more than two decades,” and that eliminating their funding is “short-sighted and will impede our mobility, climate and equity goals.”

      The funding for the TMAs is suggested to come from the transportation department’s Office of Business and Community Engagement.

      The council is also asking for $391,800 to establish a rental registration and licensure program within the Department of Excise and License, as well as the staff and outreach and education support needed to set the program up successfully. The initiative would help the city “collect city rental property data, find property owners in case of emergencies or code violations, and ensure safe and healthy rentals are maintained in Denver,” the council wrote in its letter to Hancock.

      The council suggested support for the rental registration program be drawn from the Fair Elections Fund or the budgets of either the police or safety departments.

      Another $300,000 is requested to be added either to Denver Public Library or the Office of Children’s Affairs to support digital inclusion.

      “Digital inclusion is a significant issue among low-income and BIPOC communities and our ability to reach households without computers or internet severely impairs our ability to connect effectively,” the council wrote.

      The funds should be drawn from the Fair Elections Fund, the police or transportation department, the council recommends.

      The Denver City Council is also advocating for $71,700 for the Citizen Oversight Board, which acts as a watchdog for the Office of the Independent Monitor, the oversight agency for the police and sheriff departments.

      The funding will convert a part-time, on-call position to a full-time position to “better support the increased size of the Citizen Oversight Board and to help the COB in meeting its obligations to receive, analyze and make recommendations based on community input regarding public safety agencies in Denver — the demands of which are greater than ever.”

      The council suggested drawing funds from the Department of Public Safety budget to support this request.

      Additionally, the council is asking for $50,000 for the Office on Aging Expansion, which will “ensure the continued work of this office especially in vulnerable neighborhoods that cannot access resources and supports at downtown locations.”

      The legislative body recommended pulling dollars from the Fair Elections Fund or police department budget to support their request.

      The last ask of the council’s, the only one supported by a majority but not a super majority, is $1 million for legal support for eviction defense.

      “The extreme amount of evictions that we are facing are a major issue to address. Predatory and large rental/management companies will permanently harm the most vulnerable and exacerbate our homelessness crisis,” the council warned. “If we do not get in front of this, we will have larger numbers of people on the streets with no real pathway to housing.”

      The funding would be funneled into either the Human Rights and Community Partnerships or the City Attorney’s Office, the council advised. The suggested funding source would come from the City Attorney’s Office.

      Finally, the council made two other requests without assigned monetary values.

      The first is that the Hancock administration ensure the final 2021 budget “definitively funds and explicitly references” that all park resources be adequate to permanently open park restrooms and provide portable restroom facilities in parks without permanent facilities.

      “Because the science is clear that COVID-19 will be with us for the foreseeable future, even if mitigated to some unknown degree by a vaccine, we recommend conservatively assuming that COVID-19 cleaning standards would be required in 2021 when planning for these expenses,” the council’s letter reads.

      A Denver City Council supermajority also asked Hancock to transfer youth violence prevention programs from the Department of Public Safety to the Office of Children’s Affairs “to mitigate the negative, unintended consequences of police interaction with citizens who require different services than police are able to provide,” the council wrote.

      “City Council’s recommendations are directly rooted in the voices of our neighborhoods and in our core responsibility to ensure essential services are delivered while elevating the needs of our most vulnerable communities,” Torres said in a statement.

      The mayor will review the council’s requests and submit his updated proposed budget to council on or before Oct. 19. Once the budget is submitted to council, a public hearing will be held, which is currently scheduled for Oct. 26.

      On Nov. 2, the council will vote to amend the budget and will need seven votes to pass an amendment. The mayor can reject an amendment, but that rejection can be overridden by the council with nine votes.

      The entire process must be completed by Nov. 9.

      Should Police Respond to Mental Health Crises? - Freethink, 9/15/20

      By Doug Dais

      Freethink

      Video: https://youtu.be/qZ4b70dqews

      As tensions between law enforcement and the public continue to rise, many are beginning to evaluate the role of the police, and specifically – whether all 911 calls warrant a visit from armed officers.

      Advocates for reform say officers aren’t sufficiently trained to respond to mental health crises. They believe we should employ a new class of first responders with expertise in crisis intervention. Here’s why.

      Lights and Sirens or Crisis Intervention?

      In 2015, the New York City Police Department estimated that officers were called to respond to more than 400 mental health calls per day, totalling over 12,000 per month. A study conducted by the Washington Post that same year found that at least 25% of people who had been shot and killed by police officers were suffering from an acute mental illness at the time of their death.

      The need for a better approach to mental health crisis intervention has never been more apparent. There are more than 42 million Americans suffering from mental health issues each year on average, and of those, statistics show that two million will be jailed.

      For many suffering from a mental illness, being surrounded by sirens, lights, police, and weapons can often intensify their response and aggravate the situation. Does the criminal justice system grossly mishandle these citizens by treating them with force rather than compassion?

      When police are the first responders to those suffering from a mental illness, the situation typically either ends in hospitalization or incarceration. Fortunately, there is a better way to help those suffering from mental illness get the help they need.

      As U.S. law enforcement finds itself under intense scrutiny, calls for the reallocation of funding from police departments into agencies of those trained in mental health crisis intervention are sparking interest across the nation.

      Memphis Changes Response to Mental Health Crises

      In September of 1987, Memphis police officers responded to a 911 call leading them to Joseph DeWayne Robinson, a young man with a history of mental illness who was cutting himself with a knife and threatening to commit suicide.

      While it appeared that the only life in danger was Robinson’s, the officers confronted Robinson and demanded that he drop his weapon. Robinson then ran at the officers, causing them to fire their weapons and kill him. This young man’s death led to a community outrage and a call for better mental health resources.

      Robinson was a man in a crisis with a well-known history of mental illness and substance abuse. His combative response was likely due to his mental state, but rather than de-escalating the situation, the officers responded with force since it was perceived that their lives were in danger.

      Officers and dispatchers can volunteer to attend 40 hours of crisis intervention training.

      The outrage which followed Robinson’s death led to the creation of Memphis Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT. CIT became a voluntary program within the department in which officers and dispatchers could volunteer to attend 40 hours of crisis intervention training.

      The program’s goals are: “to provide immediate response to and management of situations where the mentally ill are in a state of crisis; prevent, reduce, or eliminate injury to both the consumer and the responding police officer; find appropriate care for the consumer; and establish a treatment program that reduces recidivism.”

      Since its inception in 1988, the Memphis CIT program has reduced use of force and restraints, decreased injuries to officers and citizens, lowered arrest rates, and decreased the need for hospitalizations from 40% to 25%. The program’s success has gained national recognition and its model is being implemented in law enforcement departments in Albuquerque, Portland, Seattle, and many others across the U.S.

      Some question, though, if 40 hours of training is sufficient to adequately implement meaningful change. The CIT model relies on police officers responding to individuals in mental health crises, but other areas across the country are taking it a step further by employing professional teams of first responders with advanced training in crisis intervention.

      Dallas Begins Comprehensive Emergency Response Program

      In 2018, the Dallas Police Department partnered with the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department, the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute, and Parkland Health and Hospital System to launch a comprehensive emergency response program using a model known as “co-response.” RIGHT Care, or the Rapid Integrated Group Healthcare Team, coordinates between the above agencies to provide the proper and necessary response to each emergency call.

      Dallas Fire-Rescue’s Medical Director, Dr. Marshal Isaacs, explains, “If we can better serve individuals who are having behavioral health challenges outside of an ambulance, without the use of police cars, jails, courts, or hospital emergency departments, then the community as a whole has succeeded.”

      The program places social workers inside the dispatch center and sends out specialized teams staffed with a mental health professional to respond to any 911 call involving a mental health crisis. The still-new program targeted the South Central Dallas area, as that is the area with the highest concentration of mental health related calls. In that area, the number of patients brought to the ER has dropped by 20% and the rate of incarceration has dropped drastically too.

      CAHOOTS’ Crisis Intervention Model Thrives in Eugene

      In Eugene, Oregon, a non-profit organization called CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping out on the Streets) responds to mental health crises by sending a two-person team, consisting of a medic and a crisis worker. CAHOOTS, which has been in operation for 30 years, has had so much success in the area that its model is being replicated in other states.

      Denver’s similar STAR (Support Team Assisted Response) program launched earlier this year. Executive director of the local Caring for Denver Foundation, Lorez Meinhold, describes, “STAR Response works for a whole set of people where law enforcement response is not needed. 50% of people in our jails right now have at least one or two diagnosed mental health conditions. Jail is not the answer and, in fact, sets people back even further.”

      The program estimates that it has saved local police $6 million in the costs of medical services alone.

      CAHOOTS’ model has also proven to be a wise investment. The program estimates that it has saved local police $6 million in the costs of medical services alone. But surprisingly, its small budget, $1.8 million in 2018, is a fraction of the local police budget of $68 million, despite the fact that CAHOOTS now responds to almost 20% of the area’s emergency calls.

      A Change.org petition has already received nearly 15,000 signatures calling to defund the Eugene Police Department and reallocate a significant portion of funding into the CAHOOTS program.

      Reimagining the Role of Police

      The American police force has long been a catch-all for all forms of crisis intervention, but programs like these demonstrate how, with trained behavioral health professionals acting as first responders, cities can better support their citizens.

      While it may seem radical to institute sweeping change that removes some of the traditional responsibilities of the police force, these changes should be evaluated through the lens of progress. Up until the 1950s, the police were often called upon to be the first responders to medical emergencies, before the creation and implementation of EMT services.

      It’s possible that one day, we will look back on the implementation of solutions like RIGHT Care and CAHOOTS not as the end of America’s police force, but as a significant and necessary step in providing all citizens with effective care.

      Director’s Note: Janet van der Laak passed away unexpectedly, four weeks after doing this interview. She is remembered as a mother, wife, and passionate advocate for her son and others. Here are a few organizations that support people like Janet’s son, Matthew:

      Program uses mental health pros, not officers - The Denver Post, 9/6/20

      By Elise Schmelzer
      The Denver Post

      A concerned passerby dialed 911 to report a sobbing woman sitting alone on a curb in downtown Denver.

      Instead of a police officer, dispatchers sent Carleigh Sailon, a seasoned mental health professional with a penchant for wearing Phish T-shirts, to see what was going on.

      The woman, who was unhoused, was overwhelmed and scared. She’d ended up in an unfamiliar part of town. It was blazing hot and she didn’t know where to go. Sailon gave the woman a snack and some water and asked how she could help. Could she drive her somewhere? The woman was pleasantly surprised.

      “She was like, ‘Who are you guys? And what is this?’ ” Sailon said, recounting the call.
      This, Sailon explained, is Denver’s new Support Team Assistance Response program, which sends a mental health professional and a paramedic to some 911 calls instead of police.

      Since its launch June 1, the STAR van has responded to more than 350 calls, replacing police in matters that don’t threaten public safety and are often connected to unmet mental or physical needs. The goal is to connect people who pose no danger with services and resources while freeing up police to respond to other calls. The team, which is not armed, has not called police for backup, Sailon said.

      “We’re really trying to create true alternatives to us using police and jails,” said Vinnie Cervantes with Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, one of the organizations that helped start the program.

      Though it had been years in the making, the program launched just four days after protests erupted in Denver calling for transformational changes to policing in response to the death of George Floyd.

      “It really kind of proves that we’ve been working for the right thing, and that these ideas are getting the recognition they should,” Cervantes said.

      No day is alike, according to the two professionals from the Mental Health Center of Denver who work out of the van — Sailon and Chris Richardson.

      The team has responded to an indecent exposure call that turned out to be a woman changing clothes in an alley because she was unhoused and had no other private place to go. They’ve been called out to a trespassing call for a man who was setting up a tent near someone’s home. They’ve helped people experiencing suicidal thoughts, people slumped against a fence, people simply acting strange.

      “It’s amazing how much stuff comes across 911 as the general, ‘I don’t know what to do, I guess I’ll call 911,’ ” Richardson said. “Someone sets up a tent? 911. I can’t find someone? 911.”

      The city has touted the program, still in its pilot, as an example of progress as it is barraged with criticism during and after the protests.

      “It’s the future of law enforcement, taking a public health view on public safety,” Denver police Chief Paul Pazen said. “We want to meet people where they are and address those needs and address those needs outside of the criminal justice system.”

      Pazen doesn’t think an expanded program would reduce the number of police officers needed by the city but it would allow them to focus on other priorities, such as violent crime and traffic fatalities. The STAR van handles a small fraction of the department’s annual 600,000 calls, but the department is tracking calls across the city to see how many could be handled by the STAR team if it were to expand.

      The department has seen an increase in the number of mental health related calls over the last few years, he said, and data collected by the state shows that about a third of the people in Denver’s jails are unhoused.

      “Instead of putting people in handcuffs we’re trying to meet their needs,” Pazen said.
      The STAR program builds off the city’s co-responder program, which has paired mental health professionals with police officers since 2016 on calls where a person is suspected needing mental health services. The 17 mental health professionals responded to 2,223 calls in 2019 and the city’s Department of Public Health and Environment pays the Mental Health Center of Denver about $700,000 a year for its services. The co-responder program, which started with three mental health workers, is hiring now to expand to 25 such professionals, Pazen said.

      The combination of STAR, the co-responder program and regular police units creates a sort of continuum of response that dispatchers can choose from, Richardson said. So far, the most common calls the van responds to have been trespassing and mental health checks.

      “Once upon a time, someone called and police were tagged in to see what was going on,” Pazen said. “And I think we’re at a point where we’re realizing that police don’t have to be the first people all the time.

      During STAR’s six-month pilot program, the van is operating between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday in central downtown and along South Broadway. Eventually, the community groups want to move the STAR program from underneath the police department and manage it themselves, an idea Pazen said he supports.

      The pilot program was paid for by a grant from Caring for Denver, a pot of money for initiatives to address mental health and substance abuse collected through a sales tax. The foundation managing the money awarded $208,141 to launch the STAR program. Though sales tax revenue is expected to decline in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cervantes said the city should make STAR part of its budget and expand it citywide.

      “I’m not so much worried about the funding being there, it’s about the will to get funding to the right places,” Cervantes said.

      Organizers are working to help other cities adopt the program. Aurora city leaders are considering launching their own program as they face protests about police brutality and pressure to reshape emergency response. One of the perks is the team often has the luxury of working with a person for two hours if needed, Sailon said. They’re able to build lasting relationships and connect people to longterm support.

      “The rapport we’ve been able to build with people is really incredible,” Sailon said. “Something’s on the right track.”

      Denver Aims To Expand Behavioral Services In STAR Program - CBS Denver, 8/24/2020

      DENVER (CBS4) – More than 55 law enforcement agencies across Colorado participate in co-responder programs, pairing law enforcement and behavioral health specialists. The Mental Health Center of Denver said the capital city’s co-responder program, known as Support Team Assisted Response (STAR), started with four professionals in 2016.

      (credit: CBS)

      Now, they have 32, but they’d like to expand their reach of services.

      “We have a different response to 911 calls that don’t require law enforcement response and we want to be able to show efficacy in that. We’re getting on their level, trying to come at situations more trauma-informed. We’re having discussions about why 911 was called and how do we help solve whatever’s going on in that moment. Sometimes, someone just needs to talk for a second,” said Chris Richardson of Mental Health Center of Denver.

      Denver City County will visit a resolution approving a proposed agreement between the City and County of Denver and Mental Health Center of Denver (MCHD) for expansion of the Denver Co-Responder Program with the Denver Police Department.

      The council will discuss approving a contract with MHCD for $1,227,161 for the expansion of the program funded by the 2019 Caring 4 Denver grant.

      “It would allow for more social work to the community, to be able to connect individuals to the right support and community connection. We don’t have anyone who works overnight. That might be the next iteration in the future, how do we get a 24/7 model?” said Richardson.

      During this initial phase, STAR’s services are limited to central downtown.

      For STAR, mental health agencies got together with paramedics from Denver Health, using money from the voter-approved Caring 4 Denver ballot question.

      The pilot began amid nationwide protests against police brutality, and viral incidents leading to demands for police reform are still occurring. Richardson says the need for these alternative responses isn’t going away.

      “When 2021 rolls around, we can say this is a successful pilot and we’d like to expand this to the entire city of Denver,” said Richardson.

      COVER STORY | Denver's deadly crime wave swells amid a 'perfect storm of circumstances.'

        

      Denver has reached a boiling point.

      Gripped by a global pandemic, soaring unemployment, unrest from racial injustice and an unending homeless crisis, residents are scared. They’re angry. They’re stressed and uneasy.

      Increasingly, they are also dying, as the city faces yet another setback: a surge in shootings and killings.

      Meanwhile, an embattled police department is caught between demands that they crack down harder on every crime and the cries to defund the police. Some worry law enforcement’s pandemic-era policies — curbing low-level arrests, allowing early release of certain prisoners and breaking up fewer homeless encampments — could be behind the bloodshed. Others point to the pandemic and the systemic issues — poverty, racial disparities, distrust of police and the prevalence of firearms — that have come to a head as a result.

      It’s too soon to draw conclusions. Criminologists estimate it could take years to explain the trends. What is known, however, is that “a perfect storm” is upon us and no one can tell when clearer skies will emerge.

      “We have not faced these types of challenges,” Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said in an interview with Colorado Politics. “We’ve had a pandemic with the flu of 1918; we’ve had economic strife with the Great Recession and the Great Depression; we’ve had civil unrest in the late 60s, early 70s. But we haven’t had them all at the same time,” he said.  “All of this divide that just keeps compounding on one another has really, I believe, contributed to the types of challenges that we are seeing in town.”

      Virus Outbreak Colorado

      From left, Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen, special operations division commander Patrick Phelan and Greggory LaBerge, head of the department’s crime laboratory, at a city event in May 2020.

      Troublesome trends

      This year is ominously positioned to be the city’s bloodiest in years.

      Shootings and killings were up 50% between January and mid-July compared with the same period last year, data from the Denver Police Department shows. At least 48 homicides have occurred as of Aug. 3, and by that time in 2018 — Denver’s deadliest year in a decade — the city had recorded 36.

      Those numbers were down in Denver in the first three months of the year. But starting in April, nearly two months prior to protests, Pazen said there were “dramatic increases” in shootings compared to a three-year baseline, and killings have continued to climb since.

      Often caught in the crossfire are the city’s “most vulnerable,” Pazen said, people of color living in underserved neighborhoods, including East Colfax, Elyria-Swansea, Green Valley Ranch and Montbello.

      What’s worse, they’re also young: At least nine kids have died by homicide this year, DPD reports.

      “The rise in crime, particularly youth violent crime, is unacceptable,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said July 27 during the annual State of the City address. “I will never allow it to be normalized in our city.”

      “We are seeing some pretty heavy violence and some pretty heavy crimes being committed,” said Murphy Robinson, executive director of the Denver Department of Public Safety, during a briefing in front of the Denver City Council’s Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee. “It is quite scary.”

      Too frequently as of late, Pazen said, “people are resorting to the highest levels of violence” over some “pretty minor issues,” a pattern he said is “never OK in a civil society.”

      Denver is far from facing these issues alone, however. Major cities across the country are also in distress.

      Violent crime in Dallas increased more than 14% from April to June, the Associated Press reports, and homicides in Philadelphia jumped 20% for the week ending July 5 over the same period last year. In Chicago, homicides were up nearly 40% in the last week of June and the first week of July compared with last year, according to CNN, and in Los Angeles, there were 19 homicides between June 21 and July 5, compared to nine the year prior, the LA Times reports.

      Some smaller cities aren’t immune, either, including Colorado Springs and Aurora. Twenty-two people were killed in Colorado Springs during the first seven months of 2020, a 57% spike compared to the same time period last year. In Aurora, at least 23 people were killed from January through July, a surge of 53% compared with the same time period last year, according to The Denver Post.

      Still, the increases don’t detract from the country’s decades-long improvements in violent crime, which has fallen sharply since the 1990s. Cities seeing spikes today are still relatively safer than they were several years ago.

      For countless reasons, 2020 is proving to be an “anomaly,” experts say.

      The COVID-19 pandemic has ignited a “different set of emotions,” Pazen explained. “Not just here in Denver, not just in Colorado, but throughout the country,” cities are withering under “fear, stress, anxiety, anger — related to the political divide, related to the global pandemic, related to the economic challenges and certainly related to the social issues we are grappling with.”

      ‘Over the economic edge’

      This year has dealt a “perfect storm of circumstances,” one of the strongest factors being joblessness from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, said Paul Taylor, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Public Affairs.

      Joblessness is a factor correlated across time with an increase in gang crime, he said, including violent crime, and is “disproportionately impacting younger and minority communities.”

      Urban Peak, a Denver-based nonprofit serving youth experiencing homelessness, was funding about 65% of young people’s rent at the start of the outbreak; that number had shot up to 95% by early August due to the loss of jobs, according to Urban Peak CEO Christina Carlson.

      Across Denver, nearly 554,000 unemployment claims were filed between March 7 and July 20, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

      “Research has shown a great deal of correlation and causation between economic conditions and crime, especially violent crime. As the economy turns down, crime turns up,” said Andre Adeli, a former public defender in Denver and a criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

      The “overwhelming majority” of those typically charged with crimes, Adeli noted, are poor and are eligible or may already be receiving public assistance.

      “Economic downturns send folks over the economic edge,” he explained, “and they turn to criminal behavior to either get back to where they were or become violent in their inability to redirect their anger and frustration at the unfortunate turn in their lives.”

      Denver has been gripped by a homeless crisis that started well before the pandemic, but the loss of jobs and looming rents means the desperation could get worse.

      On July 23, one man was killed and two were injured during a shooting at a homeless encampment near the Colorado Capitol. A month earlier, a man experiencing homelessness was stabbed to death at the National Western Complex, which has been converted into a large emergency homeless shelter for men during the coronavirus pandemic.

      Meanwhile, the city is conducting encampment sweeps that send people into residential neighborhoods to find somewhere else to sleep as officials scramble to find a stopgap solution.

      “Just like we saw with the shooting, those that prey on vulnerable populations and crime issues surrounding the vulnerable populations are something that we are very concerned with and also impacts on neighborhoods as well,” including break-ins and burglaries, Pazen said. “We have to work together to try to address these social harms that often lead to crime issues.”

      “Joblessness has an impact on services that are being provided as well,” Taylor said, with some care facilities being short-staffed or even closed due to the fallout from COVID-19.

      Libraries, which have historically served as safe havens rich with resources for unhoused populations, have also closed their doors out of pandemic precautions.

      It’s true for the homeless population, Taylor said, but it’s also true for young people, many of whom were involved in school programs that were cut short or ended altogether.

      ‘Kids killing kids’

      LaKeshia Hodge is the executive director of Struggle of Love, a nonprofit based in Montbello that serves disadvantaged youth and families. Her organization, a recent recipient of the city’s microgrants to reduce youth violence, beefed up its staff to help with enormous community needs, from running a food pantry to keeping kids safe.

      Hodge described a phone call her organization received just a day earlier.

      Kids who lived five or six blocks away from the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Denver in Park Hill were afraid to walk there, so they called Struggle of Love to pick them up and give them a ride.

      “They are that afraid that they don’t even want to walk the streets in their neighborhood because of all of the violence,” Hodge said. “We don’t know if people are being targeted, if it’s an isolated incident, if it’s gang-related … it’s just crazy.”

      When Adeli was a public defender, he often represented young people charged with violent crimes, including murder.

      “The sentiment that I heard consistently from them was: It’s hard not to look guilty when everyone is watching you, and it’s hard not to get sick, tired and angry about everyone watching you,” he said. “As a result, there is always a simmer ready to boil over.”

      Adolescence itself is “already a simmer,” he said, but for people of color, especially young men, “the heat seems to be always on, and without protective factors, sometimes they catch on fire and it spreads.”

      A lack of supervision and guidance from family and mentors, he said, can act as gasoline.

      “Surges in hostility among youth can become exacerbated when the adults in their lives,” such as parents, teachers and counselors, “become distracted by economic downturns,” he said. “The more severe the downturn, the less supervision and opportunities to notice changes that need interventions. Gang affiliations increase, turf battles emerge, gun sales go up, and the next thing you know you have kids killing kids.”

      There’s also a desperate need to feel safe, a teenager named Maria explained to Hancock in a taped discussion about youth violence.

      “A lot of young people go out and get weapons or guns because they feel like that’s the only way to protect themselves. If they have a gun, then you need one, too,” she said. “You gotta protect yourself and your people.”

      The latest data for Denver shows that there has been a nearly 50% increase, or about 80,000 more firearm background checks conducted through June this year compared with last year, Pazen said, signifying record levels of gun sales during the pandemic.

      Those guns are also getting snatched.

      In the first six months of this year, 327 guns were reported stolen, DPD data shows, representing a nearly 27% increase in gun thefts compared to the three-year average. Many of those guns were stolen by kids.

      In February, the city handed out 1,200 free gun locks to help fight the issue. Denver gun locks 2 020120

      A portion of the 1,200 gun locks supplied by Project ChildSafe and the Denver Police Department. The locks will be handed out across multiple locations in Denver as part of the city’s multipronged plan to help curb youth gun violence.

      “Youth are getting access to unsecured guns, and incidents are escalating with tragic results,” Hancock said at the time. “We want to empower every resident to make a difference. Grabbing a free gun lock and securing a weapon is one action we can all take right now to keep young people safe.”

      Chris Jandro, who owns Hammer Down Firearms in Wheat Ridge, said in February that Denver’s “feel-good” initiative is “not going to make any impact.”

      Instead, Jandro said, Hancock should talk to gun dealers and try to put forward laws “that would actually have an effect on gun violence.”

      Fewer incarcerations 

      The city is locking up fewer people.

      The Denver Police Department reports about 30% of recent violent crime was committed by people who had come in contact with the city or state’s criminal justice system and were released not long after.

      The number of arrests and people behind bars has been reduced, primarily to curb the spread of the coronavirus within jails and prisons, which have proven to be hotspots in Colorado and across the nation.

      Arrests this year are down by 45% year over year, and the number of people in custody is down by 42% year over year as well. People of color, however, are still disproportionately represented in a city that is overwhelmingly white.

      Denver’s law enforcement has conducted “a lot more cite and release” of lower-level offenders than in the past, newly appointed Sheriff Elias Diggins told the Denver City Council safety committee. Officials have also prioritized their early release, as well as the early release of those with less than two months on their sentence, prisoners over 60, immunocompromised offenders and pregnant inmates.

      Robinson has repeatedly expressed his commitment to keep inmate populations low post-pandemic.

      “If I had the ability to decrease the jail that quickly and there were people in jail that can go out into society that quickly,” Robinson said, “my question is this, and I continue to ask this question every day: Why did we have them in jail in the first place?”

      Robinson, who was appointed to lead the safety department in May, said he is challenging Diggins and other leaders in the criminal justice system to focus on that question as well.

      More than a decade ago, under former Mayor John Hickenlooper’s leadership, the city adopted what is called “broken windows” policing, the notion that cracking down on minor criminal activity, like a broken window, will prevent more serious crimes down the line.

      Hickenlooper told CPR in June that it was a “brief experiment” following the 2003 police shooting of Paul Childs, a Black 15-year-old developmentally disabled boy. “I don’t think it was successful,” he said.

      Researchers at the time were skeptical, but now the consensus tends to be that the policing strategy is fruitless at best and had deepened disparities at worst.

      “We did not see it as being effective back then,” Pazen said, “nor do we try to emulate any of that.”

      Republican state Sen. John Cooke from Greeley, a retired sheriff for Weld County, said the spike in deadly crime is not the failure of law enforcement.

      “The police are doing their job,” he said. “I think the legislature is to blame largely for the increase because of sentencing reform, of letting criminals out early, of reducing bonds. It’s a joke.

      “I don’t know when Democrats are going to start to realize that when you let people out of prison, you let violent criminals out early or you don’t sentence them like they should be, they are going to commit crimes when they get out,” Cooke told Colorado Politics in a phone interview.

      Residents concerned that a long-term strategy to jail fewer people could threaten their community are correct, Adeli said. “Their communities are in danger, and now can be an excellent opportunity for them to step up and partner with the youth, particularly the males, to create constructive opportunities and safer communities.”

      “We have to understand that the place for violent offenders is in jail,” Robinson told Colorado Politics. But for people who commit nonviolent crimes, “I’m looking for an alternative response from the judicial system and an alternative response by, frankly, my law enforcement officers that will allow for us to think of things a little differently.”

      A search for solutionsVirus Outbreak No Crime

      In this April 9, 2020, photo, a Tesla police car sits in front of the City/County Building after red and white lights were illuminated to show support and gratitude for first responders and medical personnel during the outbreak of the new coronavirus in Denver.

      Since Pazen was appointed by Hancock to police chief in 2018, his focus has been on “precision policing,” using Census tract data on poverty, public health, education and more to understand specific neighborhood needs.

      The needs of the city’s affluent Cherry Creek neighborhood, for example, are vastly different than the challenges faced in low-income neighborhoods, like Sun Valley. As those needs are better understood, it becomes clearer, he said, how best to connect residents with city services, nonprofits and faith-based groups to help meet those needs.

      Robinson is also reimagining the connection between law enforcement and community.

      After racial justice protests gripped the city, Robinson began working to address the public outcries for systemic change, including creating the Office of Criminal Justice Transformation and Policy. His goal for the new division is to “spearhead some of the community-led efforts” that come out of task forces set up to re-envision policing and draft and implement those new policies.

      Robinson’s boss is, too. Last year, Hancock convened the Youth Violence Action Prevention Table, led by City Attorney Kristin Bronson and members of his administration, to work with youth to address gaps and opportunities in youth violence prevention and intervention efforts and come up with a “community-driven strategy” to address the problem from “a public health perspective, not just a law enforcement perspective.”

      Taylor, the assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Colorado Denver, echoed the importance of prioritizing mental health, particularly during the pandemic, which requires people to be distanced from each other to prevent further spread. Isolation is a trigger for many struggles, including depression and loneliness.

      Researchers put together national models using data collected after major events, such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks and economic downturns, and found a likely increase in suicides, overdose deaths and substance use disorders.

      Denver is experiencing a surge in overdose deaths from fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that’s 50 times more potent than heroin.

      Between January and May, the city withered under a 282% increase in fentanyl-related overdose fatalities compared with the same time period last year, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment reports.

      The city’s four-year-old co-responder program and newly created Support Team Assisted Response pilot program are funded by the Caring for Denver Foundation and dispatch mental health professionals and paramedics, respectively, to non-threatening 911 calls alongside or in place of an armed officer.

      The overarching goal of the programs is to shift the city toward treating people more like patients than prisoners.

      In late July, the Caring for Denver Foundation announced $1.7 million in grants for the Denver Department of Public Safety, the Denver Sheriff Department, the Denver County Court and the District Attorney’s Office.

      Denver’s safety department received a three-year grant totaling $539,000. Most of that money will go toward a full-time and part-time social worker in Denver Public Schools to provide “universal and targeted” interventions for youth struggling with substance misuse, as well as a part-time trauma specialist who will work with partner schools to implement trauma-informed practices within the schools, according to DOS spokesperson Kelli Christensen.

      The remaining $46,325 will fund Denver Health’s Substance Abuse Treatment Education and Prevention Program, which Christensen said will be available to youth in schools or in the community.

      The Denver Sheriff Department received a one-year $340,000 grant, which Diggins told Colorado Politics will “enhance and support” programs for those in custody through case management services.

      “As we strive to return our fellow residents back to our communities better than how they arrived, we will continue to look for funding and partnerships that have the same goal,” he said in a statement.

      The Denver County Court will receive a two-year grant for a total of $600,000, and the District Attorney’s Office will receive a one-year grant for $300,000.

      With that money, the DA’s office plans to double the number of accepted diversion cases from 60 to 120 and to expand services to clients, including referrals to mental health and substance treatment services, as well as offering linkages to sustainable employment opportunities.

      “Our Adult Diversion Program has been very successful in keeping people charged with nonviolent crimes out of the criminal justice system,” Denver DA Beth McCann told Colorado Politics in a statement. “That program is providing an alternative to incarceration and as one recent graduate said, helping people ‘grow to see their own light.’ ”

      Democratic state Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver, who spearheaded the Caring for Denver ballot initiative in 2018 and now serves as the foundation’s board chair, said, “When we don’t adequately fund mental health and substance misuse, we pay for it in the criminal justice system. These funded programs focus on care rather than incarceration.”

      Answers in community

      Caring for Denver also granted $5 million to 13 local nonprofit organizations, the majority of whom are run by people of color, that are working to address racial and ethnic disparities within the criminal justice system “by reflecting the community they serve and using community authored solutions,” Caring for Denver’s executive director Lorez Meinhold told Colorado Politics in an email.

      All grantees will be working toward and reporting on impacts made around lowering entry into the justice system, reducing recidivism, and improving mental health and substance misuse supports post-release.

      Community is key to solving crime, criminal justice experts agree.

      Small programs can carry “a lot of currency in the community with young people, which law enforcement doesn’t have,” said Christie Donner, the executive director of the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, “but it just needs to get to scale and it needs to be separate from a criminal justice response, because it can be very dangerous for community people if they’re seen to be aligned with police when they try to do these kinds of street-level interventions.”

      Without major investments in strategies rooted in community, Donner said, the city will never see change. A number of strategies were tried to stem the so-called “Summer of Violence” of 1993, she said, when youths involved in gang activity caused numerous crimes in the city.

      “It feels like we’re just kind of trying to repeat the s*** that we did 20 years ago that didn’t work, you know, putting a task force together, increasing surveillance and suppression on young people — predominantly young men of color — routing them through the criminal justice system and trying to deal with it that way,” she said. “We have never really deployed community-based strategies in any way to scale.”

      “If people want to reduce crime, we need to invest broadly in communities by creating positive and constructive opportunities for people through community centers, nonprofits to help with job training and placement, community gardens, volunteers, and I could go on,” Adeli echoed. “Community policing is not only about a change in the police but also a change in the community. Sometimes the police lead, but that doesn’t mean that the community cannot.”

      “The police department can’t do this alone, and the community can’t do this alone,” Pazen agreed. “We have to work together.”

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces New Community-Centered Solutions Funding Opportunity

      Media Contact: Taylor Roddy

      (312) 208-6483
      taylor@caring4denver.org

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
      August 5, 2020

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces New Community-Centered Solutions Funding Opportunity

      Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation is inviting proposals for a new $5 million dollar Community-Centered Solutions funding opportunity for innovative community-based mental health and/or substance misuse supports that prioritize access, equity, community connections, and/or address stigma.

      With investments in this priority area, Caring for Denver aims to achieve:

      1. Greater public visibility on mental health and substance misuse that helps reduce stigma and/or increases understanding and supportive actions by community
      2. Increased connections to and use of social networks and relationships that reduce isolation
      3. Increased use of supports meeting people where they are that address mental health and/or substance misuse needs in community

      “We need to meet people where they are – where they live, learn, work, play, and trust. We need to promote the power of community and support efforts that encourage connectedness” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation.

      “Innovation comes from community – this support will ensure the mental health and substance misuse needs are being addressed where people are and in the way that best meets their needs,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair of Caring for Denver.

      With robust input from over 1,600 community residents, Community-Centered Solutions, was identified an immediate area of need. The full strategic funding priorities report including other areas of focus can be found at caring4denver.org/about.

      About Caring for Denver Foundation
      Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action.

      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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Board.

      We are failing with COVID, let's not fail on mental health

       

      Caring for Denver Foundation grants $6.7M to prioritize paths to care over incarceration


      July 30, 2020

       

      Bennet: It's cheaper, smarter to educate when we incarcerate

      The Caring for Denver Foundation is awarding $6.7 million to community-based nonprofits and city departments working to move Denver toward embracing a criminal justice model that treats people more as patients rather than prisoners.

      Grants will support programs that focus on alternative responses to criminal justice, including those that focus on public and mental health, trauma and substance misuse. The goal is to divert Denverites from the criminal justice system and provide the health support they need to recover.

      “The programs Caring for Denver funded represent what we heard from community partners — involving community-based leaders and people with lived experience is a key to success,” Caring for Denver’s executive director Lorez Meinhold told Colorado Politics in an email. “Additionally, racial and ethnic disparities are a defining characteristic of our criminal justice system and these grantees strive to address these disparities by reflecting the community they serve and using community authored solutions.”

      The foundation was founded in 2018 by Denver voters, who agreed to allocate a quarter from every hundred dollars spent into a community fund, now Caring for Denver, to address mental health and drug addiction. Approximately $35 million will go to treatment, recovery and harm reduction services annually. 

      Of the $6.7 million in grants announced Tuesday by the foundation, $5 million will fund 13 nonprofit organizations that utilize peers and mentors with lived experience as part of their intervention, which Caring for Denver says is a “key component” to successful recovery. The organizations are as follows:

      • 5280 High School
      • Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado
      • Colorado Circles for Change (Formerly Victim Offender Reconciliation Program of Denver)
      • La Raza Services, Inc.
      • Life-Line Colorado
      • Make a Chess Move (MACM)
      • Mile-High Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse
      • Second Chance Center
      • Sobriety House, Inc.
      • The Center for Trauma & Resilience
      • The Delores Project
      • The Empowerment Program
      • Tribe Recovery Homes

      The remaining $1.7 million will be distributed among the Denver Department of Public Safety, the Denver Sheriff Department, the Denver County Court and the District Attorney’s Office.

      City ordinance requires that at least 10% of Caring for Denver tax revenue in any year be directed to the City and County of Denver, whose allocation is determined by the foundation’s board of directors. The dollars must provide funding for a facility and staffing to create alternatives to jail for people struggling with mental health and/or substance misuse; fully fund the co-responder program for mental health experts to ride along with Denver police; and support training for first responders, including paramedics and fire response, on how to properly assess and respond to people with mental health or addiction needs.

      Denver’s safety department received a three-year grant totaling $539,000. The majority of those funds will go toward a full-time and part-time social worker in Denver Public Schools to provide “universal and targeted” interventions for youth experiencing issues with substance misuse, as well as a part-time trauma specialist who will work with partner schools to implement trauma-informed practices within the schools, according to DOS spokesperson Kelli Christensen.

      The remaining $46,325 will fund Denver Health’s substance use treatment services through the Substance Abuse Treatment Education and Prevention Program, which Christensen said will be available to youth in schools or in the community. 

      The Denver Sheriff Department received a one-year $340,000 grant, which newly appointed Sheriff Elias Diggins told Colorado Politics will “enhance and support” programs for those in custody through case management services.

      “As we strive to return our fellow residents back to our communities better than how they arrived, we will continue to look for funding and partnerships that have the same goal,” he said in a statement.

      The Denver County Court will receive a two-year grant for a total of $600,000, and the District Attorney’s Office will receive a one-year grant for $300,000.

      With that money, the DA’s office plans to double the number of accepted diversion cases from 60 to 120 and to expand services to clients, including referrals to mental health and substance treatment services, as well as offering linkages to sustainable employment opportunities. 

      “Our Adult Diversion Program has been very successful in keeping people charged with nonviolent crimes out of the criminal justice system,” Denver DA Beth McCann told Colorado Politics in a statement. “That program is providing an alternative to incarceration and as one recent graduate said, helping people ‘grow to see their own light.’” 

      Democratic state Rep. Leslie Herod of Denver, who spearheaded the Caring for Denver ballot initiative and now serves as the foundation’s board chair, said the grants will be “transformational” for more than 13,000 Denverites.

      “When we don’t adequately fund mental health and substance misuse, we pay for it in the criminal justice system,” Herod said in a statement. “These funded programs focus on care rather than incarceration.”

      Caring for Denver Foundation Approves $6.7M in Grants to Support Alternative Responses to Criminal Justice Involvement

      Contact: Taylor Roddy (312) 208-6483
      taylor@caring4denver.org

      July 28, 2020

      Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation under leadership from Executive Director Lorez Meinhold and Board Chair State Rep. Leslie Herod recently approved $6.7M in grants to community-based non-profit organizations and departments within the City and County of Denver offices.

      Grants will support programs that help appropriately move Denver from a criminal justice response to a public health, trauma, mental health and substance misuse crisis response.

      Through these efforts, Caring for Denver, in collaboration with community partners and agencies, will reduce incarceration, recidivism, and ensure those released from the criminal justice system have the resources they need. Racial and ethnic disparities are a defining characteristic of our criminal justice system and the funded proposals seek to address these issues by supporting community-authored and led solutions.

      More than 13,000 Denver residents will receive services and other support from the organizations to break cycles of addiction, decompensation, and involvement in the criminal justice system.

      Over 70 percent of the funded organizations utilize peers and mentors with real-life experience as part of their intervention which is a key component to successful recovery.

      Of the $6.7 million, $5 million will go to the following community-based non-profit organizations:

      • 5280 High School
      • Brain Injury Association of Colorado
      • Colorado Circles for Change (Formerly Victim Offender Reconciliation Program of Denver)
      • La Raza Services, Inc.
      • Life-Line Colorado
      • Make a Chess Move (MACM)
      • Mile-High Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse
      • Second Chance Center
      • Sobriety House, Inc.
      • The Center for Trauma & Resilience 
      • The Delores Project
      • The Empowerment Program
      • Tribe Recovery Homes

      The remaining $1.7 million will fund the offices within the City and County of Denver and as stipulated by the founding ordinance for the Foundation. Those offices are:

      • City & County of Denver, County Court
      • City & County of Denver, Denver Sheriff
      • City & County of Denver, Department of Public Safety
      • City & County of Denver, District Attorney’s Office

      “This work will be transformational for more than 13,000 Denverites. When we don’t adequately fund mental health and substance misuse, we pay for it in the criminal justice system. These funded programs focus on care rather than incarceration,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair.

      With robust input from over 1,600 community residents, Alternatives to Jail, along with three other priority funding areas; Community-Centered Solutions, Youth, and Care Provision, were identified as the most immediate areas of need. The full strategic funding priorities report can be found here.

      About Caring for Denver Foundation
      Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action.

      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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Board.

      How one Colorado program uses mental health clinicians as alternative to police - Colorado Springs Gazette, 6/27/2020, updated 8/3/2020

      Colorado Springs Gazette

      How one Colorado program uses mental health clinicians as alternative to police

      Denver abolish

      Protesters in Denver call for the defunding of police in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. Cities across the country have begun shifting resources from police to programs that respond to 911 calls for homelessness, drug addiction and mental health crises.

      David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

      Every weekday morning, mental health clinician Carleigh Sailon turns on her police radio in downtown Denver and finds out who she can help next. She, along with a paramedic, jump in a repurposed city van, stripped of its blue lights and official insignia, and respond to 911 calls for people experiencing mental health crises, homelessness or drug addiction.

      Beginning this month, Denver’s emergency dispatch is sending social workers and health professionals, rather than police officers, to handle nonviolent situations. “If the police aren’t needed, let’s leave them out completely,” said Sailon, program manager for criminal justice services at the Mental Health Center for Denver.

      Denver response

      Emergency medical technician Chase Lindquist, left, and mental health clinician Carleigh Sailon respond to nonviolent 911 calls in Denver in an effort to shift first-responder duties away from police. Cities across the country are establishing similar programs.

      Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response, known as STAR, launched at the beginning of June as a six-month pilot program, funded by a grant from the Caring for Denver Foundation. The fact that STAR began at the height of demonstrations against police brutality was coincidental, Sailon said, but fitting.

      Well before protesters recently flooded the streets of America, demanding justice for the death of George Floyd and calling to defund or abolish police departments, several cities across the country had begun shifting resources and responsibilities away from law enforcement to professionals trained to handle emergency calls for nonviolent, crisis situations.

      In El Paso County, there are a limited handful of teams within the Sheriff’s Office and Colorado Springs Police Department that pair mental health clinicians with trained deputies and officers in responding to calls involving suspected mental health crises. The teams have been widely credited with defusing difficult situations.

      In San Francisco, fewer than 5% of police calls are to respond to violent crimes, Police Commissioner John Hamasaki told Stateline in an email. San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced earlier this month that, along with other changes, the police would no longer respond to noncriminal situations, instead diverting 911 calls to agencies outside law enforcement.

      For decades, cities have asked police to manage social problems such as mass homelessness, failed schools and mental illness, said Alex Vitale, a professor of sociology and coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. But it has not worked. The resources that have swelled police departments across the country should be redirected to community-based programs, he said.

      “People cycle through emergency rooms, jail lockups and homeless shelters,” he said, “and those problems get turned over to the police to manage.”

      Mental health responses can be handled without police if funded and structured well with properly trained and adequately paid professionals, said Amy Watson, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies the criminal justice and mental health systems.

      But that can be challenging, she said. One of the biggest issues facing community mental health programs is turnover — the pay is low, and people don’t stay.

      This takes an investment, she said, which is at the heart of the “defund the police” argument. “We really need to be thoughtful about how we approach this,” she said. “But if we do resource mental health services appropriately, there will be less demand on police to provide mental health crisis response.

      “It will not be eliminated, but it could be significantly reduced.”

      Some police advocates, such as Dennis Slocumb, international political director and vice president emeritus of the International Union of Police Associations, welcome programs that shift nonviolent crisis calls from police to social workers. But, he said, that shouldn’t come at the expense of police funding, which could reduce their equipment and training.

      Police can’t do everything

      Shortly after a gunman killed five Dallas police officers in July 2016, a frustrated then-Chief of Police David Brown told reporters, “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country. … Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it.”

      For several years, public health professionals, law enforcement officials and activists have been debating new approaches to policing.

      In many instances, people experiencing personal crises have been killed by police responding to 911 calls from worried friends or family members. People with an untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed in a police encounter than others, according to a 2015 study by the Arlington, Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center.

      In response, police departments across the country have adopted, among other measures, crisis intervention training, which teaches officers how to safely de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation, sometimes involving people experiencing a personal crisis. Proponents of the program say it can reduce violent interactions between police and the public.

      This training, while valuable, is insufficient compared with the training mental health professionals receive, said Slocumb, of the International Union of Police Associations.

      “Our training barely scratches the surface,” Slocumb said. “Every time there is something that’s causing a problem in society and people don’t know who else to call in the middle of the night, we go.

      “If you call us to deal with homelessness, I would ask: What tools do we have to deal with that?”

      But what if society stops asking police to respond to those situations in the first place? public health advocates ask.

      Police officers are not mental health experts and in complex crisis situations, a trained clinician can be invaluable, said Sailon. Recently, for example, she responded to an emergency call from an exasperated, wheelchair-bound man in downtown Denver.

      The man told Sailon he needed to connect with the Department of Veterans Affairs, where she had contacts from her years in this field. “Oh my God,” her contact there said, “I’ve been looking for him for three months.” Sailon brought him to the hospital shortly after.

      “If officers showed up on the scene, I don’t really know there’s a law enforcement solution for that,” Sailon said. “This is case management stuff. This is social work stuff.”

      Still in its early stages, Denver’s STAR has staff to handle around 12 calls a day in the downtown area. The program hopes to expand with more funding, staff, vans and geographic reach after the pilot ends. Ideally, Sailon said, it would operate at all hours and days of the week.

      Similar efforts are expanding across the country.

      In Albuquerque, Democratic Mayor Tim Keller announced last week he plans to spend the next two months creating a third department of first responders, alongside the police and fire departments, in the New Mexico city to handle calls involving homelessness, addiction and mental health.

      “It’s just not working,” he said in an interview. “Fundamentally, this is about looking at a third way of responding to public safety issues in a community.”

      The Albuquerque Police Department has, since 2014, been under a federal consent decree for excessive force and inadequate oversight, and has been changing its policing policies to better serve the city of 560,000 residents. A federal judge would have to approve the new agency later this year.

      In Austin, city officials recently added funding for mental health professionals to work at the Texas capital’s 911 call center and immediately respond to a person experiencing a crisis.

      The Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, known as EMCOT, which has operated since 2013, found that instead of waiting for police to reach out to the team in behavioral health situations, it was more efficient for members to handle crisis calls directly.

      Almost all EMCOT’s calls avoid arrest, said Laura Wilson-Slocum, the practice administrator of Crisis Services and Justice Initiatives at Integral Care, the community mental health center for Travis County, Texas. Outreach personnel can assess crises, follow up and connect residents to health care providers or other social services.

      “We want to ensure they have the treatment and support they need to last them through the direction of the crisis episode,” Slocum said. “It’s always our goal to strengthen community response to people experiencing mental health crises.”

      Integral Care is in talks with the Austin City Council to expand the program with additional funding.

      The Austin and Denver police departments did not respond to interview requests.

      The Eugene Model

      For the past 31 years, Eugene, Ore., has offered alternative, public health responses to emergency calls.

      Run out of the nonprofit White Bird Clinic, the Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets, known as CAHOOTS, team responds to 911 or non-emergency police calls that may not require law enforcement in the Eugene-Springfield area. Instead of sending police officers, dispatchers send a crisis worker and a medic.

      Last year, the team received 24,000 calls. They asked for police backup in 150 cases.

      The program is saving local hospitals $4 million every year by providing non-emergency medical care and first aid, said Tim Black, the operations coordinator at CAHOOTS. At the same time, it provides a free service to people in need who would otherwise call a costly ambulance.

      Many people in crisis do not need a police officer, he said, but someone to listen or help connect them to services.

      “There’s this really tremendous moment that we’re in to talk about something very different for communities’ response to people in need,” Black said. “There are so many different situations where we encounter somebody who is in a profound crisis and it’s all really about unmet needs and lack of resources.”

      Black and other members of his team have spoken with people in cities such as Austin, Los Angeles and Oakland, Calif., about establishing similar programs.

      The team also inspired Denver’s STAR program. In 2017, a group of local police reform activists and lawmakers traveled to Eugene to see the program in action. Roshan Bliss, co-founder of the Denver Justice Project, a group dedicated to transforming law enforcement, helped organize the trip. He hopes more cities will act.

      “I’m a Black man who’s tired of seeing police hurt people in my community,” he said, “especially when police shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

      The movement to abolish or defund the police is not new. It has been a critical element of the protests that grew out of Michael Brown’s death in 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. But the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed were an inflection point in this country, making the argument to fundamentally restructure policing more politically tenable, Bliss said, building on decades of activism.

      As many other civil rights activists have argued, Bliss said police agencies in this country are rooted in deep-seated racism, established early in this country’s history to track down escaped enslaved persons and bolstered over time to maintain white supremacy.

      Police would be needed less, Bliss said, if local, state and federal governments more adequately funded housing, health care and job needs — roots of violence and many emergency calls.

      The argument is taking hold. In Minneapolis, where a police officer killed Floyd, the City Council voted earlier this month to disband the Police Department and build a new system focused on public safety. Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey opposed the move, but the Council has a veto-proof majority.

      Police abolitionist organizers such as Jae Hyun Shim, a core member of MPD150, which authored a 2018 report exploring alternative public safety measures to the Minneapolis Police Department, are cautiously optimistic.

      “I have a lot of confidence in everybody in our city right now that we don’t slip back in a pattern that could potentially create a situation like this again,” Shim said. “We must move away from this system that is harmful and takes actual money away from things that I think will heal us.”

      Stateline is an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

      Stateline Jun23
      Protesters in Denver call for the defunding of police in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. Cities across the country have begun shifting resources from police to programs that respond to 911 calls for homelessness, drug addiction and mental health crises.
      David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

      Every weekday morning, mental health clinician Carleigh Sailon turns on her police radio in downtown Denver and finds out who she can help next. She, along with a paramedic, jump in a repurposed city van, stripped of its blue lights and official insignia, and respond to 911 calls for people experiencing mental health crises, homelessness or drug addiction.

      Beginning this month, Denver’s emergency dispatch is sending social workers and health professionals, rather than police officers, to handle nonviolent situations. “If the police aren’t needed, let’s leave them out completely,” said Sailon, program manager for criminal justice services at the Mental Health Center for Denver.

      Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response, known as STAR, launched at the beginning of June as a six-month pilot program, funded by a grant from the Caring for Denver Foundation. The fact that STAR began at the height of demonstrations against police brutality was coincidental, Sailon said, but fitting.

      Well before protesters recently flooded the streets of America, demanding justice for the death of George Floyd and calling to defund or abolish police departments, several cities across the country had begun shifting resources and responsibilities away from law enforcement to professionals trained to handle emergency calls for nonviolent, crisis situations.

      Stateline Jun23
      Emergency medical technician Chase Lindquist, left, and mental health clinician Carleigh Sailon respond to nonviolent 911 calls in Denver in an effort to shift first-responder duties away from police. Cities across the country are establishing similar programs.
      Courtesy of Mental Health Center of Denver

      In San Francisco, for example, fewer than 5% of police calls are to respond to violent crimes, Police Commissioner John Hamasaki told Stateline in an email. San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced earlier this month that, along with other changes, the police would no longer respond to noncriminal situations, instead diverting 911 calls to agencies outside law enforcement.

      For decades, cities have asked police to manage social problems such as mass homelessness, failed schools and mental illness, said Alex Vitale, a professor of sociology and coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. But it has not worked. The resources that have swelled police departments across the country should be redirected to community-based programs, he said.

      “People cycle through emergency rooms, jail lockups and homeless shelters,” he said, “and those problems get turned over to the police to manage.”

      Mental health responses can be handled without police if funded and structured well with properly trained and adequately paid professionals, said Amy Watson, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies the criminal justice and mental health systems.

      But that can be challenging, she said. One of the biggest issues facing community mental health programs is turnover — the pay is low, and people don’t stay.

      This takes an investment, she said, which is at the heart of the “defund the police” argument. “We really need to be thoughtful about how we approach this,” she said. “But if we do resource mental health services appropriately, there will be less demand on police to provide mental health crisis response.

      “It will not be eliminated, but it could be significantly reduced.”

      Some police advocates, such as Dennis Slocumb, international political director and vice president emeritus of the International Union of Police Associations, welcome programs that shift nonviolent crisis calls from police to social workers. But, he said, that shouldn’t come at the expense of police funding, which could reduce their equipment and training.

      Police Can’t Do Everything

      Shortly after a gunman killed five Dallas police officers in July 2016, a frustrated then-Chief of Police David Brown told reporters, “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country. … Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it.”

      For several years, public health professionals, law enforcement officials and activists have been debating new approaches to policing.

      In many instances, people experiencing personal crises have been killed by police responding to 911 calls from worried friends or family members. People with an untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed in a police encounter than others, according to a 2015 study by the Arlington, Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center.

      In response, police departments across the country have adopted, among other measures, crisis intervention training, which teaches officers how to safely de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation, sometimes involving people experiencing a personal crisis. Proponents of the program say it can reduce violent interactions between police and the public.

      This training, while valuable, is insufficient compared with the training mental health professionals receive, said Slocumb, of the International Union of Police Associations.

      “Our training barely scratches the surface,” Slocumb said. “Every time there is something that’s causing a problem in society and people don’t know who else to call in the middle of the night, we go.

      “If you call us to deal with homelessness, I would ask: What tools do we have to deal with that?”

      But what if society stops asking police to respond to those situations in the first place, public health advocates ask.

      Police officers are not mental health experts and in complex crisis situations, a trained clinician can be invaluable, said Sailon, in Denver. Last week, for example, she responded to an emergency call from an exasperated, wheelchair-bound man in downtown Denver.

      The man told Sailon he needed to connect with the Department of Veterans Affairs, where she had contacts from her years in this field. “Oh my God,” her contact there said, “I’ve been looking for him for three months.” Sailon brought him to the hospital shortly after.

      “If officers showed up on the scene, I don’t really know there’s a law enforcement solution for that,” Sailon said. “This is case management stuff. This is social work stuff.”

      Still in its early stages, Denver’s STAR has staff to handle around 12 calls a day in the downtown area. The program hopes to expand with more funding, staff, vans and geographic reach after the pilot ends. Ideally, Sailon said, it would operate at all hours and days of the week.

      Similar efforts are expanding across the country.

      In Albuquerque, Democratic Mayor Tim Keller announced last week he plans to spend the next two months creating a third department of first responders, alongside the police and fire departments, in the New Mexico city to handle calls involving homelessness, addiction and mental health.

      “It’s just not working,” he said in an interview. “Fundamentally, this is about looking at a third way of responding to public safety issues in a community.”

      The Albuquerque Police Department has, since 2014, been under a federal consent decree for excessive force and inadequate oversight, and has been changing its policing policies to better serve the city of 560,000 residents. A federal judge would have to approve the new agency later this year.

      In Austin, city officials recently added funding for mental health professionals to work at the Texas capital’s 911 call center and immediately respond to a person experiencing a crisis.

      The Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, known as EMCOT, which has operated since 2013, found that instead of waiting for police to reach out to the team in behavioral health situations, it was more efficient for members to handle crisis calls directly.

      Almost all EMCOT’s calls avoid arrest, said Laura Wilson-Slocum, the practice administrator of Crisis Services and Justice Initiatives at Integral Care, the community mental health center for Travis County, Texas. Outreach personnel can assess crises, follow up and connect residents to health care providers or other social services.

      “We want to ensure they have the treatment and support they need to last them through the direction of the crisis episode,” Slocum said. “It’s always our goal to strengthen community response to people experiencing mental health crises.”

      Integral Care is in talks with the Austin City Council to expand the program with additional funding.

      The Austin and Denver police departments did not respond to interview requests.

      The Eugene Model

      For the past 31 years, Eugene, Oregon, has offered alternative, public-health responses to emergency calls.

      Run out of the nonprofit White Bird Clinic, the Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets, known as CAHOOTS, team responds to 911 or non-emergency police calls that may not require law enforcement in the Eugene-Springfield area. Instead of sending police officers, dispatchers send a crisis worker and a medic.

      Last year, the team received 24,000 calls. They asked for police backup in 150 cases.

      The program is saving local hospitals $4 million every year by providing non-emergency medical care and first aid, said Tim Black, the operations coordinator at CAHOOTS. At the same time, it provides a free service to people in need who would otherwise call a costly ambulance.

      Many people in crisis do not need a police officer, he said, but someone to listen or help connect them to services.

      “There’s this really tremendous moment that we’re in to talk about something very different for communities’ response to people in need,” Black said. “There are so many different situations where we encounter somebody who is in a profound crisis and it’s all really about unmet needs and lack of resources.”

      Black and other members of his team have spoken with people in cities such as Austin, Los Angeles and Oakland, California, about establishing similar programs.

      The team also inspired Denver’s STAR program. In 2017, a group of local police reform activists and lawmakers traveled to Eugene to see the program in action. Roshan Bliss, co-founder of the Denver Justice Project, a group dedicated to transforming law enforcement, helped organize the trip. He hopes more cities will act.

      “I’m a Black man who’s tired of seeing police hurt people in my community,” he said, “especially when police shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

      The movement to abolish or defund the police is not new. It has been a critical element of the protests that grew out of Michael Brown’s death in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. But the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed were an inflection point in this country, making the argument to fundamentally restructure policing more politically tenable, Bliss said, building on decades of activism.

      As many other civil rights activists have argued, Bliss said police agencies in this country are rooted in deep-seated racism, established early in this country’s history to track down escaped enslaved persons and bolstered over time to maintain white supremacy.

      Police would be needed less, Bliss said, if local, state and federal governments more adequately funded housing, health care and job needs — roots of violence and many emergency calls.

      The argument is taking hold. In Minneapolis, where a police officer killed Floyd, the City Council voted earlier this month to disband the Police Department and build a new system focused on public safety. Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey opposed the move, but the Council has a veto-proof majority.

      Police abolitionist organizers such as Jae Hyun Shim, a core member of MPD150, which authored a 2018 report exploring alternative public safety measures to the Minneapolis Police Department, are cautiously optimistic.

      “I have a lot of confidence in everybody in our city right now that we don’t slip back in a pattern that could potentially create a situation like this again,” Shim said. “We must move away from this system that is harmful and takes actual money away from things that I think will heal us.”

      The STAR Van Offers an Alternative to Police
      Caring for Denver’s STAR van sends a paramedic and clinician to non-criminal 911 calls. The goal is to avoid unnecessary officer involvement—and to find gaps in Denver’s support systems.

       •  

      Caring for Denver Foundation’s newest initiative couldn’t have debuted at a more complicated—and perhaps auspicious—time.

      The six-month pilot program, dubbed Support Team Assisted Response (STAR), utilizes a single service van staffed by a mental health clinician and a paramedic. If a 911 operator receives a call about a non-criminal situation—such as reports of mental health emergencies, drug overdoses, or requests for a welfare check—they dispatch the boxy white ride (unless it’s on another call) to the scene instead of police officers.

      The STAR van is the newest enterprise from Caring for Denver, a nonprofit founded in 2018 when voters passed the Caring for Denver ballot initiative and funded its mission of addressing mental health and substance misuse issues. More than $200,000 of that money will fund the van’s full-time clinician and two paramedics who will rotate shifts. The community groups collaborating on STAR include Mental Health Center of Denver, Denver Justice Project, Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, and Denver Homeless Out Loud—all of which will evaluate the pilot in hopes of improving and expanding the model throughout the city.

      During the trial phase, STAR will serve the central downtown area, the South Broadway corridor to Mississippi Avenue, and the temporary shelters at the Denver Coliseum and National Western Complex (it’s on call Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.). STAR is confidential and gives agency to those it treats, who must consent to being taken to a new location, such as a hospital, rehabilitation facility, or shelter. The STAR team is not law enforcement and does not make arrests.

      [Read More: Caring for Denver Issues First Grants Worth About $2 Million]

      Since STAR’s June 1 launch, the van has responded to several calls a day, including requests for welfare checks and reports of intoxicated individuals. Its debut came amid increased calls to defund police departments following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man killed by an officer during an arrest in Minneapolis. And while the program’s stated mission—to provide community-driven alternatives to traditional law enforcement—is considered a key (and timely) step in diverting resources from the police, Caring for Denver partners have been planning a program like STAR for years.

      Vinnie Cervantes, a community organizer and the Denver Alliance for Street Health Response’s point person with STAR, says police are often not the best solution to community health problems. “When officers approach a situation, they’re looking for whether a crime has been committed,” he says. “Whereas, STAR’s team approaches somebody with questions about whether they can be treated on the spot or whether they needed to be treated elsewhere. It’s the difference between looking for treatment versus looking for punishment.”

      Chris Richardson, a Mental Health Center of Denver staffer who is one of two clinicians overseeing STAR, agrees. “Clinicians have the education background to be able to understand what someone may be going through,” says Richardson, who also points out that encountering a cop can be jarring for a person in need of help. “Sometimes police are trying to get from one call to the next call to the next call. The STAR van actually has the ability to be a little more intentional and a little more purposeful with that individual.”

      The goal isn’t just to quell the current crisis, but to prevent a future one. The Mile High City offers a variety of programs designed to assist the population STAR will be helping (such as the Gathering Place, a daytime drop-in center providing meals, a job readiness program, and other services for women, children, and transgender individuals facing poverty), and Richardson says the team will guide folks to those resources. “Having those long-term supports in place means that, when the next crisis comes, people can connect with those organizations instead of viewing 911 as their only option,” he says.

      Modeled after the Crisis Assistance Helping Out in The Streets (CAHOOTS) program in Eugene, Oregon, STAR is beginning as a pilot program because, Cervantes says, it must answer a variety of questions over the next six months to make sure the model is suited for Denver: How many calls were diverted from the police? How many people in crisis are receiving long-term care and support after their encounter with STAR? Is the community safer?

      Complicating those questions will be COVID-19’s many impacts—known and unknown. “There’s going to be fewer unhoused folks on the street because they’re being forced into that shelter to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Cervantes says. “But during this time, there’s an escalation of mental health crises, especially because many people feel isolated. Some of that may skew the data.”

      That’s why Cervantes will be examining STAR through another lens, one that depends slightly less on data. “The CAHOOTS program response vans have been successful,” says Cervantes. “But its real success in my mind is the network of services and different resources that CAHOOTS actually takes people to in order to get some level of support or safety.” Cervantes believes STAR, both current and future iterations, will reveal gaps in Denver’s own resources—and guide the city toward creating a more robust safety net for its most vulnerable residents.

      Denver safety director, police chief grilled on the floor of Denver City Council

      Updated 

      Screen Shot 2020-06-17 at 6.32.55 PM.png

      Chief Paul Pazen of the Denver Police Department addresses members of the Denver City Council’s safety committee in the Denver City and County Building on June 17, 2020. 

      For the first time since violent clashes broke out between police and protesters in Denver following the death of George Floyd, the city’s public safety director and police chief faced Council members and the public Wednesday morning during a two-hour safety committee hearing held in council chambers.

      Councilman Paul Kashmann, who chairs the committee and represents District 6 in south Denver, asked safety leadership on June 1 to come before the group in the coming weeks to address its use-of-force tactics. A week later, the Denver Police Department announced it had banned all chokeholds, will require body cameras for SWAT officers during tactical operations and would mandate a use-of-force report be filed when an officer points a firearm at someone. 

      Kashmann also called for the Office of the Independent Monitor to investigate the police department’s response to protesters, which is now underway.

      “While I call on Denver Police to stand on higher ground and maintain focus when the pressure builds, I call on myself and my colleagues to do the same,” Kashmann said, addressing a room full of people packed as tightly as social distancing guidelines would allow.

      “We talk often about once-in-a-lifetime occasions or opportunities, but this time is different. This may be a once-in-the-history-of-our-country moment when we sit in the midst of a pandemic that limits our distractions and narrows our focus,” he said. “I suggest we make the most of this chance to take a giant step toward creating a community in which justice for all is a reality and not just a promise.”  

      ‘Criminal justice transformation’

      Murphy Robinson, who was appointed executive director by Mayor Michael Hancock in May, acknowledged the recent “remarkable outcry” for systemic change and told those who have taken to the streets, written emails and letters and participated in town halls: “I hear you. I see you.”

      Under his leadership, Robinson pledged that the city’s public safety department — which includes the police, fire and sheriff departments — would rise above its “storied history” of violence and unaccountability and become a national example of change.

      “I dedicate to the citizens of Denver, the mayor, the city council and all the people that serve in the Department of Public Safety that we will be a leader in the systemic and strategic transformation in the criminal justice system,” he promised. “We owe it to our children and their children to make sure that the experiences that they have with race relations, discrimination and injustice is vastly different from the experiences of our generation and ancestors before us.”

      That can only happen by first listening to the community, he said.

      In his presentation, Robinson highlighted the handful of public listening opportunities he’s hosted and participated in since protests broke out, and some common themes surface: Black Lives Matter; defunding the police department; police needing racial and social justice training; that emotional intelligence and character must be a core part of recruitment; that more accountability is needed to right wrongs within safety departments; and that community trust is broken and must be rebuilt.

      Robinson said in all the conversations he’s had with people within the safety department, spanning sheriff deputies, police officers and firefighters, “everyone acknowledges it’s time” and wants “to be part of the change.”

      Robinson said he will host a “demands” meeting in the coming weeks to discuss policy changes the community has been calling for. He is also creating a stakeholder group to “implement a strategic plan for criminal justice transformation,” which will outline benchmarks, timelines and the direction the department is heading.

      Robinson said he is also launching a new division in his office, the Criminal Justice Transformation and Policy Arm, which will be responsible for drafting and implementing new policies. A formal announcement is forthcoming, he said.

      Policing policies

      Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen provided council members with a high-level overview of the police department’s training requirements, use-of-force and crowd management policies, and efforts to dispatch fewer cops and more mental health experts through its co-responder and STAR programs, which are both funded through grants from the state and Caring for Denver, which is backed by taxpayer dollars.

      Later this month, Pazen said DPD will be rolling out a new caseworker program to help curb recidivism among people experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges or substance abuse. Similarly to the other mental health programs, the “caseworker hub” program will not be funded through the police budget but instead by the state and Caring For Denver.

      The police chief also assured council members that safety officials are in full support of the independent investigation. “We in no way, shape or form are justifying inappropriate actions by our officers, and we will fully hold our team accountable for those actions,” he pledged.

      Pazen was booed by members of the public when he finished presenting.

      Kashmann then provided 20 minutes for public comment, which was filled with calls to defund the police department. Several others called for the outright abolishment of the police, including Jesse Parris, a black man who regularly attends city council meetings.

      “I’ve been at many of these protests. There was pepper spray shot at me. There was tear gas shot at me,” he said. “So, I know firsthand what this use of force is looking like, and you guys are violating everything that you said that you are going to do.

      “It’s complete hypocrisy,” he said.

      Pazen maintained in his presentation, and in an earlier interview with Colorado Politics, that police were ordered to break up crowds with tear gas and pepper balls only after provoked with items such as bricks and water bottles, as is law under Section 18, Article 9 of the Colorado Revised Statutes:

      “Riot means a public disturbance involving an assemblage of three or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs the performance of any governmental function.”

      Denver police can fire chemical munitions, along with other less-lethal weapons, to gain compliance when violence or criminal behavior occurs, if there is ongoing destruction or there are attempts to prevent officers’ control.

      Still, Robinson said the Department of Public Safety and the Office of the Independent Monitor are investigating 530 complaints of excessive force during protests. Some are more serious than others, he said, and any disagreements that arise between the two entities around disciplinary action will be left up to Robinson to decide.

      Council fires back

      When it came council members’ time to do the grilling — about an hour into the meeting — they didn’t hold back. Many of their questions and comments were made knowing they’d be unanswered due to time constraints, but will be followed up with after the meeting, safety officials said.

      Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore, who represents District 11 and the Montbello neighborhood, fired off more than half a dozen questions, many of which revolved around the rank and experience of officers deployed during protests.

      “Since I’ve been on this dais for five years, it’s next to impossible to fire a police officer,” she said. “We have seen, weekly, mayors and chiefs and directors of safety fire officers for egregious offenses, and I want to know why we are not doing that in Denver.”

      Councilwoman At Large Robin Kniech took issue with the fact that mental health support is not funded by the safety department, which received $588 million this year, or nearly 40%, of the city’s $1.5 billion budget.  

      “It’s not reassuring that we aren’t funding them from our own budget,” she said, before asking Pazen if he is open to gathering “serious” community input on the funding structure and reevaluating that structure if needed. Pazen agreed.

      She also had Pazen agree to review the media’s aerial footage to better understand what happened on the ground.   

      Council members Candi CdeBaca of District 9 and Chris Hinds of District 10 raised concerns about the integrity of the investigations within the office of the independent monitor and asked for assurance from Robinson, who gave it, that the investigation would be “truly” independent.

      “I’m concerned about the lack of communication that happened with Council. There were a lot of things — most things — we found out about from Twitter,” said Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, who represents District 5. “Quite frankly, that is unacceptable.”

      Sawyer also asked to be handed the receipts from police response to protests.

      “We are in a financial crisis, and we have in a lot of ways made it worse,” she said.

      Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval, who represents District 1, said it was “really disturbing” to see what unfolded in the first several nights of protests in Denver.

      “How do we build trust with our community, knowing what we’ve seen and knowing what you’ve seen?” she asked Robinson and Pazen. “There has to be something in the middle, and there has to be some type of process in grieving.”

      ‘No way to avoid this’

      Kashmann said that this safety committee discussion is the first of more to come in the next few weeks and months.

      On July 15, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann is scheduled to meet with the safety committee to answer questions, in part, about the decision-making process to prosecute peace officers. Forthcoming public conversations with the citizen oversight board and the independent monitor are also in the works.

      “There is no way for us to avoid this discussion,” Kashmann told community members in the council chambers. “The time is in front of us, OK. It’s going to be had.

      “You’ll make your decision … down the road: Have we stood up and answered the call or not? OK? You’ll make that decision. I invite you to do so.”

      How To Change Policing? New Service To Help People In Crisis

      Alan Gionet • Denver CBS 4 • June 12, 2020

      DENVER (CBS4)– It’s a plain van. Actually a re-purposed vehicle that had been destined for traffic enforcement. Yellow lights on top not blue. There’s no logo yet, but they’re working on it.

      “It’s pretty unassuming,” says Carleigh Sailon, program manager for criminal justice services with Mental Health Center of Denver. “Most people have been pretty happy to have it show up and very willing to work with us on solutions.”

      (credit: CBS)

      The van has been on the streets of Denver since the beginning of June. It follows four years of a so-called, co-responding program in Denver which has put experts on social work, mental health and addiction into police cars with officers. Sailon calls the van, dubbed a “STAR” van for Support Team Assisted Response a “2.0 version.”

      “We have sort of recognized responding with the police that oftentimes when we respond to a call the police really aren’t needed and the clinician is sort take over and handle that call completely.”

      Mental Health agencies got together with paramedics from Denver Health, using money from the voter approved Caring 4 Denver ballot question voters approved in 2018.

      Paramedic Dustin Yancy is one of four who have switched over to the STAR van.

      “Maybe we can meet in the middle and have a better understanding of what each one is trying to achieve here.”

      Experts know there’s a problem when police show up at an incident.

      “If someone’s in crisis and they see a police officer show up you know kind of no matter what that officer is doing people automatically assume they’re in trouble or they may be at risk of going to jail,” says Sailon.

      The very presence of a uniformed officer may be triggering.

      “This is a non-judgmental approach, a client centered approach,” says Sailon. “We’re focusing on strengths not weaknesses, we’re really trying to meet people where they’re at.”

      (credit: CBS)

      It is patterned after a system in existence in the small city of Eugene, Oregon, in existence for 29 years. The system there has taken pressure off police, jails and emergency rooms.

      “We don’t have necessarily have the right resources at the emergency department but that unfortunately our only avenue is to be able to transport patients to the emergency department,” says Justin Harper, assistant chief of paramedics for Denver Health. “A lot of the calls we run, you know we aren’t necessarily providing the right services by taking somebody and transporting them to the emergency department.”

      He was hoping for enough STAR vans to cover every corner of the city if things go as they believe. Money could be saved without incarceration or emergency room treatment as long as there are enough alternative options available that starts with the STAR van notes Harper.

      “So having this resource that’s sort of right in the middle where we can find definitive care and specifically get the services that people need.”

      Often the STAR van will offer a ride to substance abuse or mental health treatment.

      “This just feels so much more appropriate when there isn’t a risk element, when there isn’t a public safety element,” says Sailon. “I can just see that walking up with a paramedic, I’m received differently than when I’m with an officer because of that idea of ‘Oh my goodness am I in trouble?’”

      (credit: CBS)

      So far on their STAR van runs, they’ve been able to show up when police are already on scene and allow them to leave. They have yet to have to call police for backup. No one is armed in the STAR van.

      “Working with the police for a number of years I mean I think there are a lot of things that have wound up on the law enforcement’s plate that really don’t belong there,” says Sailon. “Those are not public safety issues. They are not law enforcement issues. They are public health issues.”

      A long-planned program to remove police from some 911 calls launched as Denver’s streets erupted in police brutality protests

      Kevin Beaty – Denverite – June 8, 2020

      Roshan Bliss has been trying to find ways to curb police violence for years and scored a major victory at the beginning of the month, just as Denver started protesting racism and police brutality.

      Bliss, a volunteer and co-chair of the Denver Justice Project, helped shepherd a pilot project into existence that’s now diverting some 911 calls away from armed officers to an unassuming van manned by a Denver Health paramedic and a social worker from the Mental Health Center of Denver. It’s called Support Team Assisted Response, or STAR, and the idea is to send more appropriate responses to 911 calls that have to do with substance abuse, mental health crises or people who just need help connecting to services. A grant from the Caring 4 Denver fund, which voters approved in 2019, has given STAR at least six months to prove it can be effective.

      STAR is one way to “dismantle policing,” Bliss says, an idea that’s become talked about widely and loudly during protests reacting to the killing of George Floyd. The pilot program coincidentally began while massive actions against police brutality entered their fifth consecutive day in Denver.

      Bliss and his colleagues began publicly talking about the program — or elements of it, at least — in 2017, including to a then-Denver police commander named Paul Pazen. When Pazen became chief in 2018, he was primed to help get the ball rolling. Last year, Bliss, some fellow activists and a delegation of local lawmakers took a trip to Eugene, Oregon, where a system like STAR has been in operation for more than 30 years. Bliss believes Denver is the first major city in the nation to copy Eugene’s model, removing police from situations that they themselves could make more dangerous.

      The stakes are high, activists say.

      If mental health workers had been sent to the motel where Michael Marshall, who had schizophrenia, was accused of trespassing, Bliss believes he could have avoided the Denver jail where he was later killed by sheriff’s deputies. Many of the names heard shouted at marches this week — Paul Castaway, Paul Childs, Marvin Booker — are people who died after contacts with police; Bliss thinks these cases very well could have been diverted to STAR, had it started sooner.

      Most 911 calls, he said, stem from deeper issues like a lack of affordable housing or difficulty accessing food or mental health resources. He said American society has passed too many of our problems on to police departments, which are ill-equipped to deal with many non-violent emergencies.

      “We can work towards different ways to address our social problems,” Bliss said. “You don’t need armed and badged gunmen.”

      That structural racism contributes to crime has also been discussed during protest in recent weeks.

      Roshan Bliss poses for a portrait, June 8, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)Roshan Bliss poses for a portrait, June 8, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

      Carleigh Sailon, one of two Mental Health Center of Denver workers who’s been riding around in the van taking calls, said she’s excited to be a part of a creative way to change how the city deals with crises. Helping people, and finding better ways to do it, are what motivates her.

      “I’m in this field because social justice is my passion. Bucking systems that have historically not worked is what I decided I wanted to do,” she said, especially “during this time when there’s just so clearly a movement going on, calling for a better response.”

      STAR hit the ground running.

      Sailon and her colleague, Chris Richardson, have been taking turns working the mental health side of STAR since it launched last Monday. Richardson said they’ve been very busy.

      “The past three days have been just a blur,” Richardson said. “It’s actually gone incredibly well.”

      From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, STAR picks up 911 calls within the downtown “lollipop” area, which is basically a large circle around Civic Center, Capitol Hill and Downtown with a long stem stretching south down Broadway. Bliss said historical 911 call data informed the timing and location choices for this trial period. Richardson said they’ve since added the National Western Center to its service area, since the city set up a makeshift homeless shelter there as it sought to mitigate COVID-19.

      Many of the cases Richardson and Sailon take involve people living in homelessness. Sailon said she helped some people in shelters dealing with suicidal thoughts and people on the street wrestling with substance abuse. Because they’re so deeply involved in the city’s social-work world, she and Richards can use their networks and knowledge of the system to connect people directly with case managers or other resources. They’ll even give people a ride to wherever they need to go.

      They can navigate the city’s mental health landscape more quickly than police officers can, Richardson said, while also spending more time to make sure people get what they need.

      “We have time on our side to see what’s really going on to make sure that person is connected,” he said. “It’s the idea of being able to provide the right resource at the right time.”

      Richardson and Sailon have helped operate the Mental Health Center of Denver’s co-responder program, which embeds social workers with police officers to help cops navigate tricky situations. STAR goes one step further.

      Chris Richardson and Carleigh Sailon with the Mental Health Center of Denver (left and right) and Spencer Lee, a Denver Health paramedic, stand in front of the Support Team Assisted Response's new van. June 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)Chris Richardson and Carleigh Sailon with the Mental Health Center of Denver (left and right) and Spencer Lee, a Denver Health paramedic, stand in front of the Support Team Assisted Response’s new van. June 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

      The number of unhoused patients they’ve seen so far is partially influenced by the service area they’re working.

      “Policing has always been about keeping down marginalized people, from its origins, and that has included Black folks and other folks not considered ‘white’ and poor people,” he said. “You cant have racial justice without economic justice.”

      The fact that Pazen helped green light the project, Richardson says, shows DPD leadership is committed to morphing the department into a more modern organization.

      “I think Denver is doing a lot of steps to change the culture, change their approach,” Richardson said. “They want to move to a 21st-century policing model.”

      Bliss hopes STAR can grow, treating the symptoms of systemic problems while the city deals with some root causes.

      He’d like to see 15 or 20 vans doing this kind of work across the whole city, each with a different service area that caters to a neighborhood’s specific needs. A van on the west side, for instance, might employ bilingual EMTs and mental health staff.

      In the next six months, Richardson and Sailon will work to identify ways in which the program needs to be tweaked, while they, Bliss and other interested parties try to drum up data on how things are going.

      Bliss said the next step would involve a request for proposals. He hopes a community organization steps up to own the project for the long haul, like has happened in Eugene, while taxpayer dollars help fund it.

      An existing network of street medics and community service providers, like the Denver Alliance for Street Health Response (DASHR), helped advocate for the pilot and are working to make sure it can grow.

      In a prepared statement, DASHR’s Vinnie Cervantes said supporters “insist that a program like this must be community-owned and led.”

      Many of these people are working on a volunteer basis to make it happen.

      Bliss, for instance, has a day job helping run the nonprofit Project VOYCE. He works on STAR, he said, “doing what is right in my copious free time.”

      As he thinks about minimizing damage to communities at the hands of police, he’s hoping for some big changes. Not all are new ideas.

      “To abolish police we need serious affordable housing. We need food programs,” he said. “We need to address the causes of inequality, poverty and suffering and create ways communities can support themselves in dealing with hard things.”

      ENVISION:YOU AND CARING FOR DENVER FOUNDATION ANNOUNCE TELEHEALTH PROGRAM FOR LGBTQ COMMUNITY

      To address the COVID-19 crisis, Envision:You—a non-profit, behavioral health advocacy and support organization serving the needs of Colorado’s LGBTQ+ community—announced the launch of a telehealth program. The mental health services provided under this program will assist members of the queer community who are experiencing greater behavioral health needs as a result of the unfolding, public health emergency.

      According to Steven Haden, co-founder of Envision:You, “The idea is to provide short-term, no-cost services to help individuals with mental health, emotional and substance use issues and interpersonal relationship concerns that have arisen as a result of COVID-19. The behavioral health needs of queer individuals are more complex and the outcomes more distressing under usual circumstances, but as a result of the rapidly unfolding nature of the crisis, underlying concerns are exacerbated, and new challenges will arise.” Haden added, “we are grateful for our collaboration with Caring for Denver Foundation and their strong commitment to supporting the mental health needs of LGBTQ+ people.”

      Behavioral health clinicians from Colorado Health Network (coloradohealthnetwork.org)Khesed Wellness (khesedwellness.com), and Youth Seen (youthseen.orgwill provide the telehealth services as part of the Envision:You COVID-19 Behavioral Health Support Program. To connect with participating service providers, visit envision-you.org and click on the following symbol. 

      According to Heather Lundy Nelson, LPC, NCC, founder and CEO of Khesed Wellness, “LGBTQ+ people are at particular risk for roadblocks to affordable, high-quality, mental health care. In fact, the idea for Khesed Wellness began when I couldn’t find a mental health therapist I could afford while navigating suicidal ideation during my coming out process. Especially now, as we navigate the unique challenges posed to our LGBTQ+ community, we need access to free and affordable services.” Heather added, “We are thrilled to work with Caring for Denver and Envision:You to provide free services to displaced LGBTQ+ adults and youth impacted by the coronavirus.”

      “The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. An unintended consequence of distancing is the loss of the social connections that protect LGBTQIA youth from stress, anxiety and depression. We are proud to support organizations in our community working to address these needs,” said Lorez Meinhold, executive director of the Caring for Denver Foundation.

      Dr. Tara Jae, from Youth Seen, said, “We are very familiar with the negative psychological and physical impacts that discrimination has in our LGBTQ folx of color. With the onset of this pandemic, we are keenly aware and preparing for the long term effects we will have in our community as a result of instability and lack of access to resources, specifically around mental and physical health. To have the opportunity to expand our mental health and peer support by providing no financial hurdles will be essential for our QTBIPoC and QTPoC communities.”

      Darrell Vigil, chief executive officer of the Colorado Health Network, talked about enhancing the mental health services provided by the organization. “It has become increasingly clear to us that in order to improve the wellbeing of our clients, we have to address more than just their physical health. As we have expanded our behavioral health services across Colorado we are committed to meeting our LGBTQ+ clients where they are especially during the COVID-19 crisis.”

      Program Criteria:

      • You live in Colorado.
      • You identify as Queer or part of the LGBTQ+ community.
      • You have been impacted by COVID-19.
      • You do not have insurance to cover the cost of services.

      About Caring for Denver

      Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action. To learn more, visit caring4denver.org

      About Envision:You

      The Envision:You mission is to support, educate, and empower Colorado’s LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning) community living with a mental health or substance use disorder. To learn more, visit envision-you.org.

      If you or someone you know is experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis, please contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 844-493-8255, or text TALK to 38255.

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces New Alternatives to Jail $7M Funding Opportunity

       

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces New Alternatives to Jail $7M Funding Opportunity

      April 7, 2020

      Media Contact – Taylor Roddy • 312.208.6483

      Denver, CO
      – Caring for Denver Foundation announced today it is inviting proposals for a new $7 million dollar funding opportunity for programs, projects and/or activities that address Alternatives to Jail, a priority area, for Caring for Denver Foundation.

      The vision of the Caring for Denver’s investments in this priority area is to have greater supports upfront and more opportunities to provide treatment and interventions before, during and after criminal justice involvement in Denver so that people are supported and connected throughout their recovery.

      “Denver residents continue to face unparalleled setbacks and risks to their mental well-being, especially now amid the coronavirus pandemic,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation. “We’re incredibly eager to begin partnering with the community on solutions that move us to a public health, trauma, mental health and substance misuse crisis response, with care and services provided first, and jail as a last resort.”

      “When we don’t adequately fund mental health and substance misuse, we pay for it in the criminal justice system, the child welfare system, in the ER and schools. We cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this,“ said State Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair. “This is no longer about them anymore, it’s about us, and I’m proud to continue working with Caring for Denver on the bold ways we can provide services to those in need without leaning on the criminal justice system.”

      With robust input from over 1,600 community residents, Alternatives to Jail, was identified an immediate area of need. The full strategic funding priorities report including other areas of focus can be found here.

      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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Board.

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces Funding in Support of COVID-19 Community and Frontline Responders

       

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces Funding in Support of COVID-19 Community and Frontline Responders

      Media Contact – Taylor Roddy • 312.208.6483

      Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation announced today funding designed to help organizations and frontline responders during the COVID-19 crisis.

      Caring for Denver Foundation was created to quickly respond to emerging mental health needs and substance misuse issues in our communities. We are designed to react to the rapidly changing needs of our communities and to support them as they address the growing impacts of this current pandemic.

      Though our physical offices are closed, we are working diligently to provide fast, general operating funding to support our communities by:

      1. Ensuring our funding reaches those most likely to be able to respond to mental health and substance misuse crises during this time.
      2. Reinforcing the frontline resources of community-driven mental health and those working to address substance misuse so they may continue meeting the needs of the populations they serve.
      3. Supporting providers and organizations overwhelmed working on mental health and substance misuse during this time so they remain able to continue to support the ongoing needs of the community as this rapidly changing situation progresses.

      To this end, Caring for Denver has designated a Colorado COVID-19 Support Fund including grants and staff support in three specific areas:

      • An emergency childcare program for children of those providers in Denver supporting critically at-risk populations. Caring for Denver is dedicating resources toward efforts to help ensure those have the social supports they need to continue providing vital services to meet the demand for care and limit any barriers to care.
      • Funding to support self-care including crisis intervention for support and access to behavioral health for those on the frontlines caring for the critically ill and homeless populations.
      • Flexible and responsive funds to those providers working on mental health and substance misuse issues so they can continue to serve at-risk populations.

      In partnership with other foundations, agencies, and community organizations, Caring for Denver will continue to monitor needs and align resources for both the short-term and long-term.

      “These are difficult times for us all, especially those on the frontlines, as we combat the spread of coronavirus across our city and state. As we navigate these uncharted waters, I am proud to work with Caring for Denver to bolster social supports for our healthcare workers and the mental health programs available to them,” Leslie Herod, Caring for Denver Foundation Board Chair.

      “We want to ensure that providers are equipped to meet the rapidly changing needs of the communities they’re serving during this crisis. And as we’ve continually done, we’ll listen to the community and adjust our actions to address needs as this situation changes, ” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director.

      “I applaud Caring for Denver for taking these steps to support the hard-working residents of our city when they need it the most,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “I’ve said from the beginning, we are going to get through this together, by taking care of each other and ensuring the most vulnerable among us are always a priority.”

      Mental health and substance use organizations are critical Denver safety-net providers in communities serving at-risk populations. This funding will seek to ensure the following organizations have the operational resources necessary to meet the community’s ongoing needs:

      • Servicios de la Raza
      • The Harm Reduction Center
      • The Center for Trauma & Resiliency
      • Life-Line Colorado
      • Element of Discovery – Therapists of Color
      • Tribe Recovery Homes
      • Sobriety House
      • The Center
      • The Empowerment Program
      • The Rose Andom Center
      • Friends of the Haven
      • CHARG Resource Center

      Self-care dollars for staff supporting critically at-risk homeless populations:

      • The Gathering Place
      • Urban Peak
      • Denver Rescue Mission
      • Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
      • Volunteers of America
      • The Salvation Army
      • The Delores Project
      • Catholic Charities
      • St. Francis Center

      To find out information about future funding opportunities, please visit caring4denver.org or follow facebook.com/caring4denver.

      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.

      These actions outlined above fit squarely in the areas of early prevention of mental health and substance misuse challenges and will help ensure Denver residents have access to the appropriate care at the right time and support to navigate that care.

      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 Board Chair 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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Board.

      About Executive Director 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.

       

      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 • taylor@caring4denver.org

      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 caring4denver.org/about and open for community feedback for the next month by emailing info@caring4denver.org. Check the website or facebook.com/caring4denver 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

      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.”

      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 caring4denver.org/events for dates, times, locations, and to register today.

      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.

      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.

      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.”

      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.

      "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.

      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.

      "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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      'If the Police Aren’t Needed, Let’s Leave Them Out Completely’

      Stateline Jun23
      Protesters in Denver call for the defunding of police in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd. Cities across the country have begun shifting resources from police to programs that respond to 911 calls for homelessness, drug addiction and mental health crises.
      David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

      Every weekday morning, mental health clinician Carleigh Sailon turns on her police radio in downtown Denver and finds out who she can help next. She, along with a paramedic, jump in a repurposed city van, stripped of its blue lights and official insignia, and respond to 911 calls for people experiencing mental health crises, homelessness or drug addiction.

      Beginning this month, Denver’s emergency dispatch is sending social workers and health professionals, rather than police officers, to handle nonviolent situations. “If the police aren’t needed, let’s leave them out completely,” said Sailon, program manager for criminal justice services at the Mental Health Center for Denver.

      Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response, known as STAR, launched at the beginning of June as a six-month pilot program, funded by a grant from the Caring for Denver Foundation. The fact that STAR began at the height of demonstrations against police brutality was coincidental, Sailon said, but fitting.

      Well before protesters recently flooded the streets of America, demanding justice for the death of George Floyd and calling to defund or abolish police departments, several cities across the country had begun shifting resources and responsibilities away from law enforcement to professionals trained to handle emergency calls for nonviolent, crisis situations.

      Stateline Jun23
      Emergency medical technician Chase Lindquist, left, and mental health clinician Carleigh Sailon respond to nonviolent 911 calls in Denver in an effort to shift first-responder duties away from police. Cities across the country are establishing similar programs.
      Courtesy of Mental Health Center of Denver

      In San Francisco, for example, fewer than 5% of police calls are to respond to violent crimes, Police Commissioner John Hamasaki told Stateline in an email. San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced earlier this month that, along with other changes, the police would no longer respond to noncriminal situations, instead diverting 911 calls to agencies outside law enforcement.

      For decades, cities have asked police to manage social problems such as mass homelessness, failed schools and mental illness, said Alex Vitale, a professor of sociology and coordinator of the Policing and Social Justice Project at Brooklyn College. But it has not worked. The resources that have swelled police departments across the country should be redirected to community-based programs, he said.

      “People cycle through emergency rooms, jail lockups and homeless shelters,” he said, “and those problems get turned over to the police to manage.”

      Mental health responses can be handled without police if funded and structured well with properly trained and adequately paid professionals, said Amy Watson, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies the criminal justice and mental health systems.

      But that can be challenging, she said. One of the biggest issues facing community mental health programs is turnover — the pay is low, and people don’t stay.

      This takes an investment, she said, which is at the heart of the “defund the police” argument. “We really need to be thoughtful about how we approach this,” she said. “But if we do resource mental health services appropriately, there will be less demand on police to provide mental health crisis response.

      “It will not be eliminated, but it could be significantly reduced.” 

      Some police advocates, such as Dennis Slocumb, international political director and vice president emeritus of the International Union of Police Associations, welcome programs that shift nonviolent crisis calls from police to social workers. But, he said, that shouldn’t come at the expense of police funding, which could reduce their equipment and training.

      Police Can’t Do Everything

      Shortly after a gunman killed five Dallas police officers in July 2016, a frustrated then-Chief of Police David Brown told reporters, “We’re asking cops to do too much in this country. … Not enough mental health funding, let the cops handle it.”

      For several years, public health professionals, law enforcement officials and activists have been debating new approaches to policing.

      In many instances, people experiencing personal crises have been killed by police responding to 911 calls from worried friends or family members. People with an untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed in a police encounter than others, according to a 2015 study by the Arlington, Virginia-based Treatment Advocacy Center.

      In response, police departments across the country have adopted, among other measures, crisis intervention training, which teaches officers how to safely de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation, sometimes involving people experiencing a personal crisis. Proponents of the program say it can reduce violent interactions between police and the public.

      This training, while valuable, is insufficient compared with the training mental health professionals receive, said Slocumb, of the International Union of Police Associations.

      “Our training barely scratches the surface,” Slocumb said. “Every time there is something that’s causing a problem in society and people don’t know who else to call in the middle of the night, we go.

      “If you call us to deal with homelessness, I would ask: What tools do we have to deal with that?”

      But what if society stops asking police to respond to those situations in the first place, public health advocates ask.

      Police officers are not mental health experts and in complex crisis situations, a trained clinician can be invaluable, said Sailon, in Denver. Last week, for example, she responded to an emergency call from an exasperated, wheelchair-bound man in downtown Denver.

      The man told Sailon he needed to connect with the Department of Veterans Affairs, where she had contacts from her years in this field. “Oh my God,” her contact there said, “I’ve been looking for him for three months.” Sailon brought him to the hospital shortly after.

      “If officers showed up on the scene, I don’t really know there’s a law enforcement solution for that,” Sailon said. “This is case management stuff. This is social work stuff.”

      Still in its early stages, Denver’s STAR has staff to handle around 12 calls a day in the downtown area. The program hopes to expand with more funding, staff, vans and geographic reach after the pilot ends. Ideally, Sailon said, it would operate at all hours and days of the week.

      Similar efforts are expanding across the country.

      In Albuquerque, Democratic Mayor Tim Keller announced last week he plans to spend the next two months creating a third department of first responders, alongside the police and fire departments, in the New Mexico city to handle calls involving homelessness, addiction and mental health.

      “It’s just not working,” he said in an interview. “Fundamentally, this is about looking at a third way of responding to public safety issues in a community.”

      The Albuquerque Police Department has, since 2014, been under a federal consent decree for excessive force and inadequate oversight, and has been changing its policing policies to better serve the city of 560,000 residents. A federal judge would have to approve the new agency later this year.

      In Austin, city officials recently added funding for mental health professionals to work at the Texas capital’s 911 call center and immediately respond to a person experiencing a crisis.

      The Expanded Mobile Crisis Outreach Team, known as EMCOT, which has operated since 2013, found that instead of waiting for police to reach out to the team in behavioral health situations, it was more efficient for members to handle crisis calls directly.

      Almost all EMCOT’s calls avoid arrest, said Laura Wilson-Slocum, the practice administrator of Crisis Services and Justice Initiatives at Integral Care, the community mental health center for Travis County, Texas. Outreach personnel can assess crises, follow up and connect residents to health care providers or other social services.

      “We want to ensure they have the treatment and support they need to last them through the direction of the crisis episode,” Slocum said. “It’s always our goal to strengthen community response to people experiencing mental health crises.”

      Integral Care is in talks with the Austin City Council to expand the program with additional funding.

      The Austin and Denver police departments did not respond to interview requests.

      The Eugene Model

      For the past 31 years, Eugene, Oregon, has offered alternative, public-health responses to emergency calls.

      Run out of the nonprofit White Bird Clinic, the Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets, known as CAHOOTS, team responds to 911 or non-emergency police calls that may not require law enforcement in the Eugene-Springfield area. Instead of sending police officers, dispatchers send a crisis worker and a medic.

      Last year, the team received 24,000 calls. They asked for police backup in 150 cases.

      The program is saving local hospitals $4 million every year by providing non-emergency medical care and first aid, said Tim Black, the operations coordinator at CAHOOTS. At the same time, it provides a free service to people in need who would otherwise call a costly ambulance.

      Many people in crisis do not need a police officer, he said, but someone to listen or help connect them to services.

      “There’s this really tremendous moment that we’re in to talk about something very different for communities’ response to people in need,” Black said. “There are so many different situations where we encounter somebody who is in a profound crisis and it’s all really about unmet needs and lack of resources.”

      Black and other members of his team have spoken with people in cities such as Austin, Los Angeles and Oakland, California, about establishing similar programs.

      The team also inspired Denver’s STAR program. In 2017, a group of local police reform activists and lawmakers traveled to Eugene to see the program in action. Roshan Bliss, co-founder of the Denver Justice Project, a group dedicated to transforming law enforcement, helped organize the trip. He hopes more cities will act.

      “I’m a Black man who’s tired of seeing police hurt people in my community,” he said, “especially when police shouldn’t have been there in the first place.”

      The movement to abolish or defund the police is not new. It has been a critical element of the protests that grew out of Michael Brown’s death in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. But the death of George Floyd and the protests that followed were an inflection point in this country, making the argument to fundamentally restructure policing more politically tenable, Bliss said, building on decades of activism.

      As many other civil rights activists have argued, Bliss said police agencies in this country are rooted in deep-seated racism, established early in this country’s history to track down escaped enslaved persons and bolstered over time to maintain white supremacy.

      Police would be needed less, Bliss said, if local, state and federal governments more adequately funded housing, health care and job needs — roots of violence and many emergency calls.

      The argument is taking hold. In Minneapolis, where a police officer killed Floyd, the City Council voted earlier this month to disband the Police Department and build a new system focused on public safety. Democratic Mayor Jacob Frey opposed the move, but the Council has a veto-proof majority.

      Police abolitionist organizers such as Jae Hyun Shim, a core member of MPD150, which authored a 2018 report exploring alternative public safety measures to the Minneapolis Police Department, are cautiously optimistic.

      “I have a lot of confidence in everybody in our city right now that we don’t slip back in a pattern that could potentially create a situation like this again,” Shim said. “We must move away from this system that is harmful and takes actual money away from things that I think will heal us.”

      The STAR Van Offers an Alternative to Police
      Caring for Denver’s STAR van sends a paramedic and clinician to non-criminal 911 calls. The goal is to avoid unnecessary officer involvement—and to find gaps in Denver’s support systems.

       •  

      Caring for Denver Foundation’s newest initiative couldn’t have debuted at a more complicated—and perhaps auspicious—time.

      The six-month pilot program, dubbed Support Team Assisted Response (STAR), utilizes a single service van staffed by a mental health clinician and a paramedic. If a 911 operator receives a call about a non-criminal situation—such as reports of mental health emergencies, drug overdoses, or requests for a welfare check—they dispatch the boxy white ride (unless it’s on another call) to the scene instead of police officers.

      The STAR van is the newest enterprise from Caring for Denver, a nonprofit founded in 2018 when voters passed the Caring for Denver ballot initiative and funded its mission of addressing mental health and substance misuse issues. More than $200,000 of that money will fund the van’s full-time clinician and two paramedics who will rotate shifts. The community groups collaborating on STAR include Mental Health Center of Denver, Denver Justice Project, Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, and Denver Homeless Out Loud—all of which will evaluate the pilot in hopes of improving and expanding the model throughout the city.

      During the trial phase, STAR will serve the central downtown area, the South Broadway corridor to Mississippi Avenue, and the temporary shelters at the Denver Coliseum and National Western Complex (it’s on call Monday through Friday, between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.). STAR is confidential and gives agency to those it treats, who must consent to being taken to a new location, such as a hospital, rehabilitation facility, or shelter. The STAR team is not law enforcement and does not make arrests.

      [Read More: Caring for Denver Issues First Grants Worth About $2 Million]

      Since STAR’s June 1 launch, the van has responded to several calls a day, including requests for welfare checks and reports of intoxicated individuals. Its debut came amid increased calls to defund police departments following the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man killed by an officer during an arrest in Minneapolis. And while the program’s stated mission—to provide community-driven alternatives to traditional law enforcement—is considered a key (and timely) step in diverting resources from the police, Caring for Denver partners have been planning a program like STAR for years.

      Vinnie Cervantes, a community organizer and the Denver Alliance for Street Health Response’s point person with STAR, says police are often not the best solution to community health problems. “When officers approach a situation, they’re looking for whether a crime has been committed,” he says. “Whereas, STAR’s team approaches somebody with questions about whether they can be treated on the spot or whether they needed to be treated elsewhere. It’s the difference between looking for treatment versus looking for punishment.”

      Chris Richardson, a Mental Health Center of Denver staffer who is one of two clinicians overseeing STAR, agrees. “Clinicians have the education background to be able to understand what someone may be going through,” says Richardson, who also points out that encountering a cop can be jarring for a person in need of help. “Sometimes police are trying to get from one call to the next call to the next call. The STAR van actually has the ability to be a little more intentional and a little more purposeful with that individual.”

      The goal isn’t just to quell the current crisis, but to prevent a future one. The Mile High City offers a variety of programs designed to assist the population STAR will be helping (such as the Gathering Place, a daytime drop-in center providing meals, a job readiness program, and other services for women, children, and transgender individuals facing poverty), and Richardson says the team will guide folks to those resources. “Having those long-term supports in place means that, when the next crisis comes, people can connect with those organizations instead of viewing 911 as their only option,” he says.

      Modeled after the Crisis Assistance Helping Out in The Streets (CAHOOTS) program in Eugene, Oregon, STAR is beginning as a pilot program because, Cervantes says, it must answer a variety of questions over the next six months to make sure the model is suited for Denver: How many calls were diverted from the police? How many people in crisis are receiving long-term care and support after their encounter with STAR? Is the community safer?

      Complicating those questions will be COVID-19’s many impacts—known and unknown. “There’s going to be fewer unhoused folks on the street because they’re being forced into that shelter to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” Cervantes says. “But during this time, there’s an escalation of mental health crises, especially because many people feel isolated. Some of that may skew the data.”

      That’s why Cervantes will be examining STAR through another lens, one that depends slightly less on data. “The CAHOOTS program response vans have been successful,” says Cervantes. “But its real success in my mind is the network of services and different resources that CAHOOTS actually takes people to in order to get some level of support or safety.” Cervantes believes STAR, both current and future iterations, will reveal gaps in Denver’s own resources—and guide the city toward creating a more robust safety net for its most vulnerable residents.

      Denver safety director, police chief grilled on the floor of Denver City Council

      Updated 

      Screen Shot 2020-06-17 at 6.32.55 PM.png

      Chief Paul Pazen of the Denver Police Department addresses members of the Denver City Council’s safety committee in the Denver City and County Building on June 17, 2020. 

      For the first time since violent clashes broke out between police and protesters in Denver following the death of George Floyd, the city’s public safety director and police chief faced Council members and the public Wednesday morning during a two-hour safety committee hearing held in council chambers.

      Councilman Paul Kashmann, who chairs the committee and represents District 6 in south Denver, asked safety leadership on June 1 to come before the group in the coming weeks to address its use-of-force tactics. A week later, the Denver Police Department announced it had banned all chokeholds, will require body cameras for SWAT officers during tactical operations and would mandate a use-of-force report be filed when an officer points a firearm at someone. 

      Kashmann also called for the Office of the Independent Monitor to investigate the police department’s response to protesters, which is now underway.

      “While I call on Denver Police to stand on higher ground and maintain focus when the pressure builds, I call on myself and my colleagues to do the same,” Kashmann said, addressing a room full of people packed as tightly as social distancing guidelines would allow.

      “We talk often about once-in-a-lifetime occasions or opportunities, but this time is different. This may be a once-in-the-history-of-our-country moment when we sit in the midst of a pandemic that limits our distractions and narrows our focus,” he said. “I suggest we make the most of this chance to take a giant step toward creating a community in which justice for all is a reality and not just a promise.”  

      ‘Criminal justice transformation’

      Murphy Robinson, who was appointed executive director by Mayor Michael Hancock in May, acknowledged the recent “remarkable outcry” for systemic change and told those who have taken to the streets, written emails and letters and participated in town halls: “I hear you. I see you.”

      Under his leadership, Robinson pledged that the city’s public safety department — which includes the police, fire and sheriff departments — would rise above its “storied history” of violence and unaccountability and become a national example of change.

      “I dedicate to the citizens of Denver, the mayor, the city council and all the people that serve in the Department of Public Safety that we will be a leader in the systemic and strategic transformation in the criminal justice system,” he promised. “We owe it to our children and their children to make sure that the experiences that they have with race relations, discrimination and injustice is vastly different from the experiences of our generation and ancestors before us.”

      That can only happen by first listening to the community, he said.

      In his presentation, Robinson highlighted the handful of public listening opportunities he’s hosted and participated in since protests broke out, and some common themes surface: Black Lives Matter; defunding the police department; police needing racial and social justice training; that emotional intelligence and character must be a core part of recruitment; that more accountability is needed to right wrongs within safety departments; and that community trust is broken and must be rebuilt.

      Robinson said in all the conversations he’s had with people within the safety department, spanning sheriff deputies, police officers and firefighters, “everyone acknowledges it’s time” and wants “to be part of the change.”

      Robinson said he will host a “demands” meeting in the coming weeks to discuss policy changes the community has been calling for. He is also creating a stakeholder group to “implement a strategic plan for criminal justice transformation,” which will outline benchmarks, timelines and the direction the department is heading.

      Robinson said he is also launching a new division in his office, the Criminal Justice Transformation and Policy Arm, which will be responsible for drafting and implementing new policies. A formal announcement is forthcoming, he said.

      Policing policies

      Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen provided council members with a high-level overview of the police department’s training requirements, use-of-force and crowd management policies, and efforts to dispatch fewer cops and more mental health experts through its co-responder and STAR programs, which are both funded through grants from the state and Caring for Denver, which is backed by taxpayer dollars.

      Later this month, Pazen said DPD will be rolling out a new caseworker program to help curb recidivism among people experiencing homelessness, mental health challenges or substance abuse. Similarly to the other mental health programs, the “caseworker hub” program will not be funded through the police budget but instead by the state and Caring For Denver.

      The police chief also assured council members that safety officials are in full support of the independent investigation. “We in no way, shape or form are justifying inappropriate actions by our officers, and we will fully hold our team accountable for those actions,” he pledged.

      Pazen was booed by members of the public when he finished presenting.

      Kashmann then provided 20 minutes for public comment, which was filled with calls to defund the police department. Several others called for the outright abolishment of the police, including Jesse Parris, a black man who regularly attends city council meetings.

      “I’ve been at many of these protests. There was pepper spray shot at me. There was tear gas shot at me,” he said. “So, I know firsthand what this use of force is looking like, and you guys are violating everything that you said that you are going to do.

      “It’s complete hypocrisy,” he said.

      Pazen maintained in his presentation, and in an earlier interview with Colorado Politics, that police were ordered to break up crowds with tear gas and pepper balls only after provoked with items such as bricks and water bottles, as is law under Section 18, Article 9 of the Colorado Revised Statutes:

      “Riot means a public disturbance involving an assemblage of three or more persons which by tumultuous and violent conduct creates grave danger of damage or injury to property or persons or substantially obstructs the performance of any governmental function.”

      Denver police can fire chemical munitions, along with other less-lethal weapons, to gain compliance when violence or criminal behavior occurs, if there is ongoing destruction or there are attempts to prevent officers’ control.

      Still, Robinson said the Department of Public Safety and the Office of the Independent Monitor are investigating 530 complaints of excessive force during protests. Some are more serious than others, he said, and any disagreements that arise between the two entities around disciplinary action will be left up to Robinson to decide.

      Council fires back

      When it came council members’ time to do the grilling — about an hour into the meeting — they didn’t hold back. Many of their questions and comments were made knowing they’d be unanswered due to time constraints, but will be followed up with after the meeting, safety officials said.

      Councilwoman Stacie Gilmore, who represents District 11 and the Montbello neighborhood, fired off more than half a dozen questions, many of which revolved around the rank and experience of officers deployed during protests.

      “Since I’ve been on this dais for five years, it’s next to impossible to fire a police officer,” she said. “We have seen, weekly, mayors and chiefs and directors of safety fire officers for egregious offenses, and I want to know why we are not doing that in Denver.”

      Councilwoman At Large Robin Kniech took issue with the fact that mental health support is not funded by the safety department, which received $588 million this year, or nearly 40%, of the city’s $1.5 billion budget.  

      “It’s not reassuring that we aren’t funding them from our own budget,” she said, before asking Pazen if he is open to gathering “serious” community input on the funding structure and reevaluating that structure if needed. Pazen agreed.

      She also had Pazen agree to review the media’s aerial footage to better understand what happened on the ground.   

      Council members Candi CdeBaca of District 9 and Chris Hinds of District 10 raised concerns about the integrity of the investigations within the office of the independent monitor and asked for assurance from Robinson, who gave it, that the investigation would be “truly” independent.

      “I’m concerned about the lack of communication that happened with Council. There were a lot of things — most things — we found out about from Twitter,” said Councilwoman Amanda Sawyer, who represents District 5. “Quite frankly, that is unacceptable.”

      Sawyer also asked to be handed the receipts from police response to protests.

      “We are in a financial crisis, and we have in a lot of ways made it worse,” she said.

      Councilwoman Amanda Sandoval, who represents District 1, said it was “really disturbing” to see what unfolded in the first several nights of protests in Denver.

      “How do we build trust with our community, knowing what we’ve seen and knowing what you’ve seen?” she asked Robinson and Pazen. “There has to be something in the middle, and there has to be some type of process in grieving.”

      ‘No way to avoid this’

      Kashmann said that this safety committee discussion is the first of more to come in the next few weeks and months.

      On July 15, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann is scheduled to meet with the safety committee to answer questions, in part, about the decision-making process to prosecute peace officers. Forthcoming public conversations with the citizen oversight board and the independent monitor are also in the works.

      “There is no way for us to avoid this discussion,” Kashmann told community members in the council chambers. “The time is in front of us, OK. It’s going to be had.

      “You’ll make your decision … down the road: Have we stood up and answered the call or not? OK? You’ll make that decision. I invite you to do so.”

      How To Change Policing? New Service To Help People In Crisis

      Alan Gionet • Denver CBS 4 • June 12, 2020

      DENVER (CBS4)– It’s a plain van. Actually a re-purposed vehicle that had been destined for traffic enforcement. Yellow lights on top not blue. There’s no logo yet, but they’re working on it.

      “It’s pretty unassuming,” says Carleigh Sailon, program manager for criminal justice services with Mental Health Center of Denver. “Most people have been pretty happy to have it show up and very willing to work with us on solutions.”

      (credit: CBS)

      The van has been on the streets of Denver since the beginning of June. It follows four years of a so-called, co-responding program in Denver which has put experts on social work, mental health and addiction into police cars with officers. Sailon calls the van, dubbed a “STAR” van for Support Team Assisted Response a “2.0 version.”

      “We have sort of recognized responding with the police that oftentimes when we respond to a call the police really aren’t needed and the clinician is sort take over and handle that call completely.”

      Mental Health agencies got together with paramedics from Denver Health, using money from the voter approved Caring 4 Denver ballot question voters approved in 2018.

      Paramedic Dustin Yancy is one of four who have switched over to the STAR van.

      “Maybe we can meet in the middle and have a better understanding of what each one is trying to achieve here.”

      Experts know there’s a problem when police show up at an incident.

      “If someone’s in crisis and they see a police officer show up you know kind of no matter what that officer is doing people automatically assume they’re in trouble or they may be at risk of going to jail,” says Sailon.

      The very presence of a uniformed officer may be triggering.

      “This is a non-judgmental approach, a client centered approach,” says Sailon. “We’re focusing on strengths not weaknesses, we’re really trying to meet people where they’re at.”

      (credit: CBS)

      It is patterned after a system in existence in the small city of Eugene, Oregon, in existence for 29 years. The system there has taken pressure off police, jails and emergency rooms.

      “We don’t have necessarily have the right resources at the emergency department but that unfortunately our only avenue is to be able to transport patients to the emergency department,” says Justin Harper, assistant chief of paramedics for Denver Health. “A lot of the calls we run, you know we aren’t necessarily providing the right services by taking somebody and transporting them to the emergency department.”

      He was hoping for enough STAR vans to cover every corner of the city if things go as they believe. Money could be saved without incarceration or emergency room treatment as long as there are enough alternative options available that starts with the STAR van notes Harper.

      “So having this resource that’s sort of right in the middle where we can find definitive care and specifically get the services that people need.”

      Often the STAR van will offer a ride to substance abuse or mental health treatment.

      “This just feels so much more appropriate when there isn’t a risk element, when there isn’t a public safety element,” says Sailon. “I can just see that walking up with a paramedic, I’m received differently than when I’m with an officer because of that idea of ‘Oh my goodness am I in trouble?’”

      (credit: CBS)

      So far on their STAR van runs, they’ve been able to show up when police are already on scene and allow them to leave. They have yet to have to call police for backup. No one is armed in the STAR van.

      “Working with the police for a number of years I mean I think there are a lot of things that have wound up on the law enforcement’s plate that really don’t belong there,” says Sailon. “Those are not public safety issues. They are not law enforcement issues. They are public health issues.”

      A long-planned program to remove police from some 911 calls launched as Denver’s streets erupted in police brutality protests

      Kevin Beaty – Denverite – June 8, 2020

      Roshan Bliss has been trying to find ways to curb police violence for years and scored a major victory at the beginning of the month, just as Denver started protesting racism and police brutality.

      Bliss, a volunteer and co-chair of the Denver Justice Project, helped shepherd a pilot project into existence that’s now diverting some 911 calls away from armed officers to an unassuming van manned by a Denver Health paramedic and a social worker from the Mental Health Center of Denver. It’s called Support Team Assisted Response, or STAR, and the idea is to send more appropriate responses to 911 calls that have to do with substance abuse, mental health crises or people who just need help connecting to services. A grant from the Caring 4 Denver fund, which voters approved in 2019, has given STAR at least six months to prove it can be effective.

      STAR is one way to “dismantle policing,” Bliss says, an idea that’s become talked about widely and loudly during protests reacting to the killing of George Floyd. The pilot program coincidentally began while massive actions against police brutality entered their fifth consecutive day in Denver.

      Bliss and his colleagues began publicly talking about the program — or elements of it, at least — in 2017, including to a then-Denver police commander named Paul Pazen. When Pazen became chief in 2018, he was primed to help get the ball rolling. Last year, Bliss, some fellow activists and a delegation of local lawmakers took a trip to Eugene, Oregon, where a system like STAR has been in operation for more than 30 years. Bliss believes Denver is the first major city in the nation to copy Eugene’s model, removing police from situations that they themselves could make more dangerous.

      The stakes are high, activists say.

      If mental health workers had been sent to the motel where Michael Marshall, who had schizophrenia, was accused of trespassing, Bliss believes he could have avoided the Denver jail where he was later killed by sheriff’s deputies. Many of the names heard shouted at marches this week — Paul Castaway, Paul Childs, Marvin Booker — are people who died after contacts with police; Bliss thinks these cases very well could have been diverted to STAR, had it started sooner.

      Most 911 calls, he said, stem from deeper issues like a lack of affordable housing or difficulty accessing food or mental health resources. He said American society has passed too many of our problems on to police departments, which are ill-equipped to deal with many non-violent emergencies.

      “We can work towards different ways to address our social problems,” Bliss said. “You don’t need armed and badged gunmen.”

      That structural racism contributes to crime has also been discussed during protest in recent weeks.

      Roshan Bliss poses for a portrait, June 8, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)Roshan Bliss poses for a portrait, June 8, 2019. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

      Carleigh Sailon, one of two Mental Health Center of Denver workers who’s been riding around in the van taking calls, said she’s excited to be a part of a creative way to change how the city deals with crises. Helping people, and finding better ways to do it, are what motivates her.

      “I’m in this field because social justice is my passion. Bucking systems that have historically not worked is what I decided I wanted to do,” she said, especially “during this time when there’s just so clearly a movement going on, calling for a better response.”

      STAR hit the ground running.

      Sailon and her colleague, Chris Richardson, have been taking turns working the mental health side of STAR since it launched last Monday. Richardson said they’ve been very busy.

      “The past three days have been just a blur,” Richardson said. “It’s actually gone incredibly well.”

      From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, STAR picks up 911 calls within the downtown “lollipop” area, which is basically a large circle around Civic Center, Capitol Hill and Downtown with a long stem stretching south down Broadway. Bliss said historical 911 call data informed the timing and location choices for this trial period. Richardson said they’ve since added the National Western Center to its service area, since the city set up a makeshift homeless shelter there as it sought to mitigate COVID-19.

      Many of the cases Richardson and Sailon take involve people living in homelessness. Sailon said she helped some people in shelters dealing with suicidal thoughts and people on the street wrestling with substance abuse. Because they’re so deeply involved in the city’s social-work world, she and Richards can use their networks and knowledge of the system to connect people directly with case managers or other resources. They’ll even give people a ride to wherever they need to go.

      They can navigate the city’s mental health landscape more quickly than police officers can, Richardson said, while also spending more time to make sure people get what they need.

      “We have time on our side to see what’s really going on to make sure that person is connected,” he said. “It’s the idea of being able to provide the right resource at the right time.”

      Richardson and Sailon have helped operate the Mental Health Center of Denver’s co-responder program, which embeds social workers with police officers to help cops navigate tricky situations. STAR goes one step further.

      Chris Richardson and Carleigh Sailon with the Mental Health Center of Denver (left and right) and Spencer Lee, a Denver Health paramedic, stand in front of the Support Team Assisted Response's new van. June 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)Chris Richardson and Carleigh Sailon with the Mental Health Center of Denver (left and right) and Spencer Lee, a Denver Health paramedic, stand in front of the Support Team Assisted Response’s new van. June 8, 2020. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

      The number of unhoused patients they’ve seen so far is partially influenced by the service area they’re working.

      “Policing has always been about keeping down marginalized people, from its origins, and that has included Black folks and other folks not considered ‘white’ and poor people,” he said. “You cant have racial justice without economic justice.”

      The fact that Pazen helped green light the project, Richardson says, shows DPD leadership is committed to morphing the department into a more modern organization.

      “I think Denver is doing a lot of steps to change the culture, change their approach,” Richardson said. “They want to move to a 21st-century policing model.”

      Bliss hopes STAR can grow, treating the symptoms of systemic problems while the city deals with some root causes.

      He’d like to see 15 or 20 vans doing this kind of work across the whole city, each with a different service area that caters to a neighborhood’s specific needs. A van on the west side, for instance, might employ bilingual EMTs and mental health staff.

      In the next six months, Richardson and Sailon will work to identify ways in which the program needs to be tweaked, while they, Bliss and other interested parties try to drum up data on how things are going.

      Bliss said the next step would involve a request for proposals. He hopes a community organization steps up to own the project for the long haul, like has happened in Eugene, while taxpayer dollars help fund it.

      An existing network of street medics and community service providers, like the Denver Alliance for Street Health Response (DASHR), helped advocate for the pilot and are working to make sure it can grow.

      In a prepared statement, DASHR’s Vinnie Cervantes said supporters “insist that a program like this must be community-owned and led.”

      Many of these people are working on a volunteer basis to make it happen.

      Bliss, for instance, has a day job helping run the nonprofit Project VOYCE. He works on STAR, he said, “doing what is right in my copious free time.”

      As he thinks about minimizing damage to communities at the hands of police, he’s hoping for some big changes. Not all are new ideas.

      “To abolish police we need serious affordable housing. We need food programs,” he said. “We need to address the causes of inequality, poverty and suffering and create ways communities can support themselves in dealing with hard things.”

      ENVISION:YOU AND CARING FOR DENVER FOUNDATION ANNOUNCE TELEHEALTH PROGRAM FOR LGBTQ COMMUNITY

      To address the COVID-19 crisis, Envision:You—a non-profit, behavioral health advocacy and support organization serving the needs of Colorado’s LGBTQ+ community—announced the launch of a telehealth program. The mental health services provided under this program will assist members of the queer community who are experiencing greater behavioral health needs as a result of the unfolding, public health emergency.

      According to Steven Haden, co-founder of Envision:You, “The idea is to provide short-term, no-cost services to help individuals with mental health, emotional and substance use issues and interpersonal relationship concerns that have arisen as a result of COVID-19. The behavioral health needs of queer individuals are more complex and the outcomes more distressing under usual circumstances, but as a result of the rapidly unfolding nature of the crisis, underlying concerns are exacerbated, and new challenges will arise.” Haden added, “we are grateful for our collaboration with Caring for Denver Foundation and their strong commitment to supporting the mental health needs of LGBTQ+ people.”

      Behavioral health clinicians from Colorado Health Network (coloradohealthnetwork.org)Khesed Wellness (khesedwellness.com), and Youth Seen (youthseen.orgwill provide the telehealth services as part of the Envision:You COVID-19 Behavioral Health Support Program. To connect with participating service providers, visit envision-you.org and click on the following symbol. 

      According to Heather Lundy Nelson, LPC, NCC, founder and CEO of Khesed Wellness, “LGBTQ+ people are at particular risk for roadblocks to affordable, high-quality, mental health care. In fact, the idea for Khesed Wellness began when I couldn’t find a mental health therapist I could afford while navigating suicidal ideation during my coming out process. Especially now, as we navigate the unique challenges posed to our LGBTQ+ community, we need access to free and affordable services.” Heather added, “We are thrilled to work with Caring for Denver and Envision:You to provide free services to displaced LGBTQ+ adults and youth impacted by the coronavirus.”

      “The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many people’s mental health and created new barriers for people already suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. An unintended consequence of distancing is the loss of the social connections that protect LGBTQIA youth from stress, anxiety and depression. We are proud to support organizations in our community working to address these needs,” said Lorez Meinhold, executive director of the Caring for Denver Foundation.

      Dr. Tara Jae, from Youth Seen, said, “We are very familiar with the negative psychological and physical impacts that discrimination has in our LGBTQ folx of color. With the onset of this pandemic, we are keenly aware and preparing for the long term effects we will have in our community as a result of instability and lack of access to resources, specifically around mental and physical health. To have the opportunity to expand our mental health and peer support by providing no financial hurdles will be essential for our QTBIPoC and QTPoC communities.”

      Darrell Vigil, chief executive officer of the Colorado Health Network, talked about enhancing the mental health services provided by the organization. “It has become increasingly clear to us that in order to improve the wellbeing of our clients, we have to address more than just their physical health. As we have expanded our behavioral health services across Colorado we are committed to meeting our LGBTQ+ clients where they are especially during the COVID-19 crisis.”

      Program Criteria:

      • You live in Colorado.
      • You identify as Queer or part of the LGBTQ+ community.
      • You have been impacted by COVID-19.
      • You do not have insurance to cover the cost of services.

      About Caring for Denver

      Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support to address Denver’s mental health and substance misuse needs by growing community-informed solutions, dismantling stigma, and turning the community’s desire to help into action. To learn more, visit caring4denver.org

      About Envision:You

      The Envision:You mission is to support, educate, and empower Colorado’s LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning) community living with a mental health or substance use disorder. To learn more, visit envision-you.org.

      If you or someone you know is experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis, please contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 844-493-8255, or text TALK to 38255.

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces New Alternatives to Jail $7M Funding Opportunity

       

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces New Alternatives to Jail $7M Funding Opportunity

      April 7, 2020

      Media Contact – Taylor Roddy • 312.208.6483

      Denver, CO
      – Caring for Denver Foundation announced today it is inviting proposals for a new $7 million dollar funding opportunity for programs, projects and/or activities that address Alternatives to Jail, a priority area, for Caring for Denver Foundation.

      The vision of the Caring for Denver’s investments in this priority area is to have greater supports upfront and more opportunities to provide treatment and interventions before, during and after criminal justice involvement in Denver so that people are supported and connected throughout their recovery.

      “Denver residents continue to face unparalleled setbacks and risks to their mental well-being, especially now amid the coronavirus pandemic,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation. “We’re incredibly eager to begin partnering with the community on solutions that move us to a public health, trauma, mental health and substance misuse crisis response, with care and services provided first, and jail as a last resort.”

      “When we don’t adequately fund mental health and substance misuse, we pay for it in the criminal justice system, the child welfare system, in the ER and schools. We cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this,“ said State Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair. “This is no longer about them anymore, it’s about us, and I’m proud to continue working with Caring for Denver on the bold ways we can provide services to those in need without leaning on the criminal justice system.”

      With robust input from over 1,600 community residents, Alternatives to Jail, was identified an immediate area of need. The full strategic funding priorities report including other areas of focus can be found here.

      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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Board.

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces Funding in Support of COVID-19 Community and Frontline Responders

       

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces Funding in Support of COVID-19 Community and Frontline Responders

      Media Contact – Taylor Roddy • 312.208.6483

      Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation announced today funding designed to help organizations and frontline responders during the COVID-19 crisis.

      Caring for Denver Foundation was created to quickly respond to emerging mental health needs and substance misuse issues in our communities. We are designed to react to the rapidly changing needs of our communities and to support them as they address the growing impacts of this current pandemic.

      Though our physical offices are closed, we are working diligently to provide fast, general operating funding to support our communities by:

      1. Ensuring our funding reaches those most likely to be able to respond to mental health and substance misuse crises during this time.
      2. Reinforcing the frontline resources of community-driven mental health and those working to address substance misuse so they may continue meeting the needs of the populations they serve.
      3. Supporting providers and organizations overwhelmed working on mental health and substance misuse during this time so they remain able to continue to support the ongoing needs of the community as this rapidly changing situation progresses.

      To this end, Caring for Denver has designated a Colorado COVID-19 Support Fund including grants and staff support in three specific areas:

      • An emergency childcare program for children of those providers in Denver supporting critically at-risk populations. Caring for Denver is dedicating resources toward efforts to help ensure those have the social supports they need to continue providing vital services to meet the demand for care and limit any barriers to care.
      • Funding to support self-care including crisis intervention for support and access to behavioral health for those on the frontlines caring for the critically ill and homeless populations.
      • Flexible and responsive funds to those providers working on mental health and substance misuse issues so they can continue to serve at-risk populations.

      In partnership with other foundations, agencies, and community organizations, Caring for Denver will continue to monitor needs and align resources for both the short-term and long-term.

      “These are difficult times for us all, especially those on the frontlines, as we combat the spread of coronavirus across our city and state. As we navigate these uncharted waters, I am proud to work with Caring for Denver to bolster social supports for our healthcare workers and the mental health programs available to them,” Leslie Herod, Caring for Denver Foundation Board Chair.

      “We want to ensure that providers are equipped to meet the rapidly changing needs of the communities they’re serving during this crisis. And as we’ve continually done, we’ll listen to the community and adjust our actions to address needs as this situation changes, ” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director.

      “I applaud Caring for Denver for taking these steps to support the hard-working residents of our city when they need it the most,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “I’ve said from the beginning, we are going to get through this together, by taking care of each other and ensuring the most vulnerable among us are always a priority.”

      Mental health and substance use organizations are critical Denver safety-net providers in communities serving at-risk populations. This funding will seek to ensure the following organizations have the operational resources necessary to meet the community’s ongoing needs:

      • Servicios de la Raza
      • The Harm Reduction Center
      • The Center for Trauma & Resiliency
      • Life-Line Colorado
      • Element of Discovery – Therapists of Color
      • Tribe Recovery Homes
      • Sobriety House
      • The Center
      • The Empowerment Program
      • The Rose Andom Center
      • Friends of the Haven
      • CHARG Resource Center

      Self-care dollars for staff supporting critically at-risk homeless populations:

      • The Gathering Place
      • Urban Peak
      • Denver Rescue Mission
      • Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
      • Volunteers of America
      • The Salvation Army
      • The Delores Project
      • Catholic Charities
      • St. Francis Center

      To find out information about future funding opportunities, please visit caring4denver.org or follow facebook.com/caring4denver.

      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.

      These actions outlined above fit squarely in the areas of early prevention of mental health and substance misuse challenges and will help ensure Denver residents have access to the appropriate care at the right time and support to navigate that care.

      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 Board Chair 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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Board.

      About Executive Director 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.

       

      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 • taylor@caring4denver.org

      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 caring4denver.org/about and open for community feedback for the next month by emailing info@caring4denver.org. Check the website or facebook.com/caring4denver 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 caring4denver.org/events 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.

      Expand accordions below for updates
      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces New Alternatives to Jail $7M Funding Opportunity

       

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces New Alternatives to Jail $7M Funding Opportunity

      April 7, 2020

      Media Contact – Taylor Roddy • 312.208.6483

      Denver, CO
      – Caring for Denver Foundation announced today it is inviting proposals for a new $7 million dollar funding opportunity for programs, projects and/or activities that address Alternatives to Jail, a priority area, for Caring for Denver Foundation.

      The vision of the Caring for Denver’s investments in this priority area is to have greater supports upfront and more opportunities to provide treatment and interventions before, during and after criminal justice involvement in Denver so that people are supported and connected throughout their recovery.

      “Denver residents continue to face unparalleled setbacks and risks to their mental well-being, especially now amid the coronavirus pandemic,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation. “We’re incredibly eager to begin partnering with the community on solutions that move us to a public health, trauma, mental health and substance misuse crisis response, with care and services provided first, and jail as a last resort.”

      “When we don’t adequately fund mental health and substance misuse, we pay for it in the criminal justice system, the child welfare system, in the ER and schools. We cannot incarcerate ourselves out of this,“ said State Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair. “This is no longer about them anymore, it’s about us, and I’m proud to continue working with Caring for Denver on the bold ways we can provide services to those in need without leaning on the criminal justice system.”

      With robust input from over 1,600 community residents, Alternatives to Jail, was identified an immediate area of need. The full strategic funding priorities report including other areas of focus can be found here.

      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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Board.

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces Funding in Support of COVID-19 Community and Frontline Responders

       

      Caring for Denver Foundation Announces Funding in Support of COVID-19 Community and Frontline Responders

      Media Contact – Taylor Roddy • 312.208.6483

      Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation announced today funding designed to help organizations and frontline responders during the COVID-19 crisis.

      Caring for Denver Foundation was created to quickly respond to emerging mental health needs and substance misuse issues in our communities. We are designed to react to the rapidly changing needs of our communities and to support them as they address the growing impacts of this current pandemic.

      Though our physical offices are closed, we are working diligently to provide fast, general operating funding to support our communities by:

      1. Ensuring our funding reaches those most likely to be able to respond to mental health and substance misuse crises during this time.
      2. Reinforcing the frontline resources of community-driven mental health and those working to address substance misuse so they may continue meeting the needs of the populations they serve.
      3. Supporting providers and organizations overwhelmed working on mental health and substance misuse during this time so they remain able to continue to support the ongoing needs of the community as this rapidly changing situation progresses.

      To this end, Caring for Denver has designated a Colorado COVID-19 Support Fund including grants and staff support in three specific areas:

      • An emergency childcare program for children of those providers in Denver supporting critically at-risk populations. Caring for Denver is dedicating resources toward efforts to help ensure those have the social supports they need to continue providing vital services to meet the demand for care and limit any barriers to care.
      • Funding to support self-care including crisis intervention for support and access to behavioral health for those on the frontlines caring for the critically ill and homeless populations.
      • Flexible and responsive funds to those providers working on mental health and substance misuse issues so they can continue to serve at-risk populations.

      In partnership with other foundations, agencies, and community organizations, Caring for Denver will continue to monitor needs and align resources for both the short-term and long-term.

      “These are difficult times for us all, especially those on the frontlines, as we combat the spread of coronavirus across our city and state. As we navigate these uncharted waters, I am proud to work with Caring for Denver to bolster social supports for our healthcare workers and the mental health programs available to them,” Leslie Herod, Caring for Denver Foundation Board Chair.

      “We want to ensure that providers are equipped to meet the rapidly changing needs of the communities they’re serving during this crisis. And as we’ve continually done, we’ll listen to the community and adjust our actions to address needs as this situation changes, ” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director.

      “I applaud Caring for Denver for taking these steps to support the hard-working residents of our city when they need it the most,” Mayor Michael B. Hancock said. “I’ve said from the beginning, we are going to get through this together, by taking care of each other and ensuring the most vulnerable among us are always a priority.”

      Mental health and substance use organizations are critical Denver safety-net providers in communities serving at-risk populations. This funding will seek to ensure the following organizations have the operational resources necessary to meet the community’s ongoing needs:

      • Servicios de la Raza
      • The Harm Reduction Center
      • The Center for Trauma & Resiliency
      • Life-Line Colorado
      • Element of Discovery – Therapists of Color
      • Tribe Recovery Homes
      • Sobriety House
      • The Center
      • The Empowerment Program
      • The Rose Andom Center
      • Friends of the Haven
      • CHARG Resource Center

      Self-care dollars for staff supporting critically at-risk homeless populations:

      • The Gathering Place
      • Urban Peak
      • Denver Rescue Mission
      • Colorado Coalition for the Homeless
      • Volunteers of America
      • The Salvation Army
      • The Delores Project
      • Catholic Charities
      • St. Francis Center

      To find out information about future funding opportunities, please visit caring4denver.org or follow facebook.com/caring4denver.

      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.

      These actions outlined above fit squarely in the areas of early prevention of mental health and substance misuse challenges and will help ensure Denver residents have access to the appropriate care at the right time and support to navigate that care.

      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 Board Chair 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 serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Board.

      About Executive Director 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.

       

      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 • taylor@caring4denver.org

      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 caring4denver.org/about and open for community feedback for the next month by emailing info@caring4denver.org. Check the website or facebook.com/caring4denver 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 caring4denver.org/events 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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