Aurora launching program to send unarmed health professionals — not police — to some mental health calls

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(From left to right) Tandis Hashemi, clinician from Aurora Mental Health Center; Alex James, paramedic from Falck Rocky Mountain; and Courtney Tassin, program manager for the Aurora Mobile Response Team (Credit: City of Aurora)

AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Aurora is launching a new program that will send unarmed health professionals to some mental health calls instead of police, mirroring a successful program in Denver that does the same.

The Aurora Mobile Response Team launches Wednesday as a 6-month pilot program in northwest Aurora.

“We are thrilled to launch this program and offer much-needed services to the Aurora community,” Jessica Prosser — director of Aurora’s Housing and Community Services Department, which is leading the program — stated in a press release. “We recognize the quickest and most effective solutions for those in crisis don’t always need law enforcement intervention. The Aurora Mobile Response Team helps meet those in crisis where they are with a helping hand and direction to resources.”

Through the program, a licensed mental health clinician and a paramedic will respond to certain emergency calls and provide “trauma-informed crisis intervention and de-escalation services to individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis related to mental health, depression, homelessness, poverty and/or substance use issues,” according to the city.

Here are the boundaries for the program’s service area:

The Aurora Mobile Response Team pilot program will be available starting Sept. 8, 2021, as a 6-month pilot program west of Interstate 225 and north of Sixth Avenue, Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (Credit: City of Aurora)

The team can also provide basic first aid, behavioral health assessments and resource referrals, along with basic things like food, water, clothing and hygiene products, the city said.

The Aurora Mobile Response Team will not involve police officers and will not respond to violent incidents or life-threatening medical situations. The program will also operate separate from the Aurora Police Department’s crisis response team, an existing, citywide program that pairs trained officers with mental health clinicians.

After the pilot program is finished, the city will measure how it went and decide on whether to expand it.

Denver recently expanded its version of the program — the Support Team Assisted Response program, or STAR for short — after a yearlong pilot proved successful. STAR now operates seven days a week, citywide.

Denver says that in its first year, STAR handled 1,400 emergency calls, of which there were zero arrests, no injuries and no need for police backup.

How to contact the Aurora Mobile Response Team

The team provides service Wednesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in northwest Aurora, specifically west of Interstate 225 and north of Sixth Avenue.

Those in the service area can request the Aurora Mobile Response Team through 911 or Aurora’s non-emergency dispatch line at 303-627-3100.

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