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Denver's police alternative STAR program continues expansion

City council to consider new $2.4 million contract to add more EMTs and vans
Denver's STAR Program
Posted at 8:59 AM, Mar 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-28 10:59:33-04

DENVER – The Denver City Council will consider another contract to help the STAR (Support Team Assisted Response) program continue its expansion.

The STAR program, which is a collaborative partnership between several community agencies, responds to non-violent emergency calls in Denver with a two-person team that includes an EMT and a mental health clinician.

The program was designed to minimize police interactions with citizens experiencing mental health issues.

Last year, STAR responded to more than 4,700 calls and provided clinical support to 1,100 people, according to data provided to the Denver City Council.

Most of the calls for service are in downtown Denver.

Denver's police alternative STAR program continues expansion

Since its creation in 2020, the STAR program has gradually expanded.

Currently, the program responds to calls between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Administrators hope to expand the program to 16 teams, which will be able to respond to calls 24/7, 365 days a year.

On Tuesday night, a bill will be formally introduced to the full city council that would approve a $2.4 million contract with the Denver Health and Hospital Authority (DHHA), one of the STAR program partners.

This would allow DHHA to purchase three more vans and add six additional EMTs to the STAR program.

Last fall, STAR also began a partnership with Servicios de La Raza to build and manage a network of community agencies to provide longer-term mental and behavioral health support to people who interact with the STAR program.

Servicios de La Raza also wants to help improve STAR’s relations with communities of color.

“There are some gaps, and I think those gaps are most specifically within our communities of color,” said Rudy Gonzales, the president and CEO of Servicios de La Raza. “I truly believe that we can help rebuild, in a good way, a healthy relationship again that is community-led, because we're very strong proponents of that."

In January, the council also approved a contract with WellPower (formerly the Mental Health Center of Denver), another program partner, adding six more clinicians to the STAR program.

The administrators of the STAR program hope to complete its expansion this year.

In addition to funding from the City and County of Denver, STAR also receives funding from Caring for Denver.

To contact the STAR program directly call 720-913-STAR (7827).

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