Caring for Denver Foundation under leadership from Executive Director, Lorez Meinhold, and Board Chair, State Representative Leslie Herod, recently approved grants to first responders and co-responders supporting Denver residents in mental health and/or substance misuse crisis. $2.2M will be awarded to support the following:
-The Denver Police Department (DPD), in partnership with Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD), will expand the existing co-responder program. The expanded program will direct more people with mental health and/or substance misuse needs to the appropriate community resources, reduce hospitalizations and incarceration, and improve system response, especially for those in mental distress and/or with historical traumas that may impact their engagement with law enforcement.
-DPD will pilot a community response program in Denver called Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) modeled from a successful program in Eugene, Oregon, to provide mobile crisis response to mental health and/or substance misuse situations that do not require law enforcement presence. STAR will engage community partners to adapt this approach that sends a paramedic, mental health provider and peer support navigator to low-risk behavioral calls to de-escalate and connect a resident in distress with appropriate services.
-Denver Health Paramedics and the Denver Fire Department, which comprise the Emergency Medical Services (EMS), will develop and pilot training for front-line staff on identification and verbal de-escalation practices for those in a mental health and/or substance misuse crisis.
“We are excited to fund work that focuses on impact and invests in potential. We will partner with those on the front lines to address the right challenges with the best solutions. And, this is just the beginning,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation.
“This initial funding will focus on ensuring our first responders have the tools they need to help those in mental health and substance misuse crisis, diverting them from the criminal justice system and toward the right care. This is just the start of game-changing work in Denver,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair.
“We are thankful for Caring for Denver and the people of Denver for making this possible. It will have a huge impact on helping individuals in need,” said Denver Police Department Chief Paul M. Pazen.
Caring for Denver will soon release a strategic funding priorities report outlining areas of focus for upcoming grant request opportunities. The report is the result of a robust community engagement effort to identify and prioritize community needs representing input from more than 1,600 creatives, people with lived experience, first responders, youth and so many others across 120 organizations and through four forums, three virtual sessions, small community meetings, and by phone.
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