Colorado parents support new Denver Public Schools program, but want violence prevention programs.

By Jasmine Arenas

CBS Colorado

Denver Public Schools has teamed up with other organizations to try to provide more services for students and DPS schools in crisis response. A grant funded through Caring For Denver will provide funding to create a crisis response resource, TRUST which stands for Therapeutic Response and Urgent Stabilization Team. 

A Denver Public Schools emblem and sign

A Denver Public Schools emblem and sign on the Evie Garrett Dennis Campus.KATIE WOOD/THE DENVER POST VIA GETTY IMAGES

According to officials, this resource will work with the DPS crisis response team and be available to schools, individuals and families when a crisis occurs that impacts the students directly.

The team will consist of three therapists, one psychiatrist and two coordinators. 

The $1.7 million in funding will be used to create TRUST which will be available to respond to traumatic events within 24 hours and help coordinate follow-up care and resources as needed. Three schools will also add an on-site STEP therapist to help with student needs for substance use treatment and get them connected to resources. Those therapists will be available at Manual High School, Lincoln High School, and Kepner Middle School.

According to Denver Health, this now marks the largest youth-focused individual grant amount that Caring for Denver has awarded.

Though the TRUST program looks to provide a 24-hour crisis response team and will provide therapy and psychiatric care, parents want more preventive measures in place. 

Holly Vause is a DPS parent and a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner who is in favor of having a TRUST program at DPS schools. 

“We’ve had a very bumpy start to the school year, to say the least,” said Vause. 

With leadership changes at multiple schools like McAuliffe International Middle School and Northfield High School, she feels there is a lot of uncertainty within DPS schools, but also fears violent events happening.

“I think, unfortunately, there is a place for a crisis response team… My broader concern is both as a parent and a mental health professional, let’s prevent the crisis,” added Vause. 

The TRUST team has been created to help meet the needs of students who need more acute services. For instance, students who are at high risk for suicide or threats of violence.

Danielle Vice, the director of school-based behavioral health services for Denver Health says there are therapists in 19 of the school-based clinics in DPS schools. Those therapists are providing mental health and substance abuse treatment, which is a program supporting that need. 

“This program is serving that need to help support more of those crisis situations so serving kids who are more acute as well as being able to support DPS when there is more of a larger crisis incident,” said Vice. 

Those incidents include the East High School shooting in March when a student shot two administrators and later killed himself.


East High School/CBS

Dr. Harvey Bograd, another DPS parent fears the chance of a similar event happening, “It is a very concerning time… it is a time for people to be thoughtful and make changes that can decrease the chances of this happening again.” 

He believes there needs to be more measures in place to ensure high-risk students are being disciplined.

“If we find that is not happening there needs to be alternative settings for kids to leave East High School and go to a special school that is very well-resourced,” said Bograd. 

Parents agree it’s a step in the right direction as this program will also provide on-demand mental health and substance misuse support for youth so they can access care when they need it most.

But they want to see violence prevention.

“I think it’s great, but we do need to prevent these events, that’s more important,” said Bograd. 

Denver Health is currently hiring professionals for their TRUST team. They are hopeful the program will be running by January. 

The way it would work:

Students will be referred by the school mental health team and then have therapists go to the school and meet them to do a 30-40 session or go to the school-based clinic to meet with a therapist.

Students will then be screened to make sure appropriate information is gathered on family dynamics to make a focused program for the student. 

According to DPS, they have over 400 mental health staff employed by Denver Public Schools who are on the front lines when a student is experiencing acute mental health crisis, such as suicide ideation and they are referred for hospitalization. The TRUST program and these clinicians will be able to help support these students and families while they are in that experience with Denver Health supporting them while they are released and what that treatment plan will be as they transition back to school.