Denver considering spending $6M to have mental health clinicians go out with police

Black Chronicle News Service

(The Center Square) – The city of Denver has proposed a $6 million resolution to continue partnering with the nonprofit WellPower to have mental health clinicians go out with police on calls involving individuals with suspected mental health needs.

Since the pandemic, reports have shown that Colorado, like other states, has seen an increase in mental health needs as Denver continues to invest millions for behavioral health programs.

Denver City Council discussed the proposal at the Dec. 18 meeting, and the resolution would add $2.1 million for a new total of $6 million and extend the contract by 13 months with a new term of Nov. 30, 2024, according to city documents.

WellPower, a non-profit recently referred to as the Mental Health Center of Denver, is Denver’s community health center responsible for the operation of the Crisis Intervention Response Unit.

The Crisis Intervention Response Unit uses mental health clinicians with police officers who respond to any calls involving those with suspected mental health needs.

According to WellPower, 98% of encounters did not result in an arrest, and 97% did not end with issuing a ticket, while 66% of encounters were recommended for mental health treatment.

“The Denver Department of Public Safety is grateful to have a robust set of alternative response programs, including DPD’s Crisis Intervention Response Unit, that can lead to better outcomes that do not involve the criminal justice system,” Armando Saldate, the city’s executive director of public safety, said in an email to The Center Square.

“We are lucky to have WellPower as a partner for our co-responder program as we see continue to see increases in mental health related calls. The department will continue to make data-informed decisions about how to best expand our alternative response options to ensure we are providing the right resource for the right call for service,” Saldate continued.

The operation began in 2016 with three clinicians and one police officer. It is now city-wide with 41 clinical staff members and is exploring additional city co-responder partnerships, according to city documents.

The operation is funded through the Caring for Denver Foundation.