Caring for Denver Invests $12.1M in Alternatives to Jail Grant

Out Front Magazine (OFM)

AUGUST 9, 2022

Caring for Denver mural
Photo courtesy of Caring for Denver on Facebook

A previous poll by The Colorado Health Foundation found that many people consider mental health and substance use serious problems for Coloradans. This is especially true for BIPOC and LGBTQ Coloradans, since these populations since they experience struggles with mental health and substance use in different ways than other demographics. These concerns prompted the creation of the Caring for Denver Foundation, which aims 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.

The foundation recently announced the awardees for their Alternatives to Jail grant. The grant aims to fund community and city projects that provide alternative responses to criminal justice, including those that focus on public and mental health, trauma, and substance misuse. This would allow people to get the resources they need and avoid harmful repercussions that involvement with the criminal justice system may have on their lives. The Alternatives to Jail grant has been funding these projects since 2020. This year, it is awarding $12.1 million to 18 grantees in Denver.

Three different projects from the city and county of Denver were amongst the awardees, including the Denver Police Department, Denver Sheriff, and the Department of Public Health & Environment for their alternative response programs. Their Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) and co-responder programs allow mental health clinicians and mental health professionals to respond to calls, allowing for people to get the mental healthcare they need. The Denver Sheriff was awarded for their Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) for substance use and case management.

The community-based awardees include programs like the Heavy Hands Heavy Hearts Foundation, The Storytellers Projects, Gang Rescue and Support Project (GRASP), and many more.

The Heavy Hands Heavy Hearts Foundation is using the funds for their Glovez Up, Gunz Down Movement program. The program instills resilience in Black and Latinx youth and adults while teaching them to stop or reduce high-risk behaviors through peer-led support groups,  mental and behavioral health supports, and counseling.

The Storytellers Project’s grantee was their Breaking Chains Building Bonds program (BCBB), which supports formerly incarcerated parents and their families and youth involved in the criminal justice system by providing mental health and substance misuse supports needed to break generational cycles of family violence, trauma, substance misuse, and incarceration. The GRASP program is another awardee for providing trauma-based support to young adults and youth of color. The program addresses cultural barriers, substance misuse, and intergenerational trauma.

These programs are not only addressing the mental health and substance use concerns in Denver but they are creating a path leading to community-led support. Creating strength in community programs and turning to them as an alternative to incarceration can head off the harsh effects the criminal justice system has in Denver and its communities of color. Check out all the grant winners on the Caring for Denver Foundation website.