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Denver Police sees success by pairing behavioral health specialists with officers

The city and law enforcement are interested in expanding the program. The question is where that money comes from.

DENVER — The Denver Police Department said it's seeing success by pairing behavioral health specialists with officers while responding to 911 calls. 

Wednesday, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment, which helps oversee this program, told the city council that the co-responder units answered 1,725 calls last year:

  • 69 resulted in a citation or arrest
  • 286 people were placed on emergency mental health hold
  • 71 people were connected to housing and treatment
  • 13 results in detox
  • 567 people engaged with the Mental Health Center of Denver for help 

"The program has been successful beyond our wildest dreams," said Jeff Holliday, the program manager for behavioral health strategies for DDPHE. 

City council members met Wednesday to discuss the budget for this program and said they over-budgeted for the program. 

In 2018 and 2019, the city set aside $1 million for the program but said the actual expense in 2018 was $458,000. The projected cost is $620,000 in 2019. 

With the help of Medicaid reimbursements, after a behavioral health specialist bills for their services, the city said they could reduce the overall contract by $300,000 for 2020 to $700,000. 

The $300,000 will go back into the general fund. 

Holliday said even with the reduction, the city can still fund co-responder teams at all six Denver Police districts and the city and mayor are still very committed to providing mental health resources. 

"One of his priorities is behavioral health," said Holliday.

The city and law enforcement are interested in expanding the program but the question is where the money comes from. 

Holliday said Denver Police haven't put in a request for an expansion through the Crime Prevention and Control Commission and said the request for more funding could come from another source, like Caring4Denver, a foundation voters approved to help fund in 2018.

Caring4Denver said they are anticipating a proposal to expand the co-responder team next month.

Next with Kyle Clark hadn't heard back from Denver Police as of Thursday evening. 

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