DENVER (KDVR) — One of Denver’s policing strategies is being used as an example for other cities across the country. U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet is pushing for increased funding to help get options like the city’s program that sends mental health workers instead of police officers to some calls.
Bennet said the success of the Support Team Assisted Response program, known as STAR, needs to be replicated.
“The minute the chief started talking about it, I thought to myself, ‘Why isn’t this in every police department around the entire country?’ Because STAR is a win for the community and it is a win for our police,” Bennet said.
Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said he and other agencies involved with Denver’s STAR program have talked with others in the state and nationwide to implement more programs like it.
“Working together to come up with these better solutions, better outcomes for individuals in crisis is certainly work the entire state can be proud of,” Pazen said.
In Colorado, 27 counties have some sort of collaborative response program.
Since its launch in 2020, the Denver program has dispatched a team of emergency medical technicians and behavioral health clinicians to help with more than 5,000 incidents.
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Responders working on the front lines of STAR, like paramedic Dustin Yancy, are thrilled more people could be learning about what they do.
“We want it to be on the same level almost as 911. Obviously not for life-threatening emergencies or dangerous crime, but when you are in a moment of need, we need to be able to deploy effectively and efficiently so that people can get to what they need,” Yancy said.
While law enforcement supports the push, there are some others who are critical. Bennet’s GOP opponent Joe O’Dea took to Twitter to call the new effort a press stunt.
Despite opposition from this GOP member, Bennet said he is not worried about potential pushback from sitting Senate Republicans.
“I feel optimistic we’re going to be able to find Republican support for this,” Bennet said. “Every single community in America is facing similar challenges to the challenges Denver is facing right now.”
If the measure is able to get this passed now, he believes the program would be able to survive a leadership change in Washington if Republicans win back the White House and Senate.