This, my friends, is what the future of law enforcement will look like.
It started initially in Denver, with four professionals, in 2016.
But it really took off in June 2020, in a pilot program called STAR… Support Team Assisted Response.
Now it has 32 professionals including 15 volunteers which include behavioral and medical health clinicians who have responded to over 2,300 calls that have reported mental health crises including drug and alcohol use, assistance to those with mental issues such as schizophrenia and delusions and severe depression that has led to suicidal tendencies.
From the info collected from 759 of the residents served so far, that 3/4 of them have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and the like.
Said Chris Richardson of Mental Health Center of Denver, “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.”
And the team connects the homeless population to services and resources like food and shelter, and distributes socks and jackets and water whilst they do so.
And in all these calls, according to this report released last month, not once, not a single time has the police had to be called as back- up for a threat to safety.
We can only surmise how many of these calls for someone in crises would have led to needless violence or degradation…… or worse…. by untrained law enforcement.
Now, the police can focus on other serious matters and allow their fellow professionals to do what they do best.
With dignity and peacefulness.
Respect and gentleness.
It has worked so well, that in January, the City Council approved $1.5 million to expand the program, which includes five additional vans, and the hiring by the Mental Health Center of Denver of seven clinicians, four paramedics and two EMT’s.
The program also received a $1.4 million grant from the Caring For Denver Foundation.
They intend on serving at least 10,000 brothers and sisters in crises this year.
‘...100% of the calls they’ve received without killing, beating, or arresting anyone.’
It’s such a win- win.
First and foremost, a wary populace will have less concern on calling for help for someone in crises, without worrying about that person being degraded, arrested, harmed or killed.
It also saves money all around.
Said Councilwoman Robin Kneich, “STAR is minimizing unnecessary arrests and unnecessary costs, whether that be jail costs or emergency room costs.”
And, no doubt, law suits.
Said Chris Richardson, LCSW, the Mental Health Center of Denver’s Associate Director of Criminal Justice, “When STAR pulls up, people in crisis can be assured that two non-judgmental, client-centered, supportive people who are willing to listen are getting out of that van to help.”
Well, blessed be for that.
Other Colorado cities including Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, and Pueblo have started similar emergency services to send trained, unarmed health professionals instead of cops for these calls.
Aurora has already launched their Aurora Mobile Response Team in September of 2021.
Said Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen, “It’s the future of law enforcement.
We want to meet people where they are and address those needs and address those needs outside of the criminal justice system.”
I have little doubt that such an approach will lessen the horror stories and the unfortunate and often violent outcomes brought upon our most vulnerable populations.
It will save lives and hope and give respect and dignity to everyone involved.
Keeping professionals focused on their areas of expertise.
Let’s hope that this takes off and becomes the norm.…
.... from coast to coast like butter and toast.
Loving and honoring thy neighbor.