Early Trials: ‘STAR’ Mental Health Response Works Much Better Than Police
By Grace Hauck
Breaking News Reporter, Chicago
Another U.S. city is reporting early success with a program that replaces traditional law enforcement responders with health care workers for some emergency calls.
Previously, Denver 911 operators only directed calls to police or fire department first responders. But the Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) pilot program created a third track for directing emergency calls to a two-person team: a medic and a clinician, staffed in a van from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays.
The STAR program, which launched in June, reported promising results in its six-month progress report. The program aims to provide a “person-centric mobile crisis response” to community members who are experiencing problems related to mental health, depression, poverty, homelessness, or substance abuse issues.
Denver is among several U.S. cities working to develop an alternative emergency responder model for people who are experiencing mental health crises, as police officers fatally shoot hundreds of people experiencing mental health crises every year, according to a Washington Post database of fatal shootings by on-duty police officers. Since 2015, police have fatally shot nearly 1,400 people with mental illnesses, according to the database.
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