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Denver says program that diverts certain 911 calls from police to counselors has been a 'success'

Denver's STAR Program
Posted at 12:22 PM, Feb 12, 2021

DENVER — The City of Denver is reporting the results of the first six months of its STAR (Support Team Assisted Response) Program.

The pilot program launched in June 2020 and is meant to divert certain emergency dispatch calls away from the Denver Police Department.

Instead, when dispatch receives a call involving mental health, medical care, or non-criminal activities, an unmarked van carrying a mental health professional and paramedic is dispatched to that location.

The team is equipped to handle drug overdoses, suicidal individuals, mental illness, intoxication, and other incidents.

According to the city, over the past six months, 2,500 emergency calls fell under the STAR Program and teams responded to 748 without assistance from police.

Benjamin Dunning, an organizer for Homeless Out Loud, which was involved in the creation of the program, said it is helping reduce strain on the police department.

“The basic premise of not sending armed police officers to calls that could be handled better with people with different skills is awesome and we're already seeing the results of that,” Dunning said.

As Denver makes plans to extend the program, Dunning said Homeless Out Loud and other organizations involved with the program think there should be an oversight committee to make sure the program is running properly.