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Denver council approves $1.4 million to expand STAR program

STAR currently has three vans operating citywide. With this new funding, they hope to increase the number to six vans and 10 teams.

DENVER — Denver City Council has unanimously approved $1.4 million to expand the Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program, which dispatches licensed mental health professionals instead of police for certain 911 calls.

The pilot program launched in June 2020. Since then, STAR teams have responded to more than 2,700 calls. 

The program pairs a mental health clinician with a paramedic or EMT for each call. 

STAR currently has three vans operating citywide. With this new funding, they hope to increase the number to six vans and 10 teams, running seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

"It means that we're going to be able to make it to more calls, which is really exciting after running a very small pilot program with one van working predominantly downtown," STAR operations manager Carleigh Sailon said. "So we're now responding citywide, and responding to more calls for service. And our goal is to make it to all the calls for service that are STAR eligible, and ensure that folks in our community who are vulnerable or marginalized or struggling have that support, and have access to that right response." 

The money will also allow STAR to create a network of community providers to collaborate directly with them, so they can refer people to specific resources when responding to calls.

"There is funding for community resources that the STAR team can refer folks to that are culturally appropriate, that are geographically convenient, that are comfortable for them and supportive," Sailon said. 

The $1.4 million contract funds the program through December. 

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