Case Study: Denver City and County, Colo.
In 2016, the City and County of Denver (Denver) launched a novel approach to 911 emergency response. By embedding licensed clinicians with police officers, their co-responder program seeks to improve 911 response for individuals experiencing behavioral health crises. Since its inception, the co-responder program has grown from four clinicians to 32 (soon to be 42 with an overnight shift) and connected countless people with behavioral health treatment and services as an alternative to arrest. In November 2018, voters overwhelmingly passed the Caring for Denver ballot initiative which created a 0.25 percent sales tax increase or mental health and substance abuse services. This tax has generated roughly $35 million annually with at least 10 percent of those funds allocated to specific public safety services and training related to mental health and substance abuse. Leveraging this momentum, in June 2019, a team of individuals from the city and local non-profit organizations participated in a three-day experiential learning session with Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets (CAHOOTS) in Eugene, Ore. With the Denver Police Department reporting mental health-related calls up 17 percent over the previous three-year average heading into 2020, the time was ripe to expand the work of the co-responder program and develop a Case Manager Hub in the Denver Police Department.