Denver Aims To Expand Behavioral Services In STAR Program

CBS 4 Denver

By Tori Mason  August 24, 2020 at 10:58 pm CBS 4 Denver

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.