Caring for Denver Foundation Approves Grants to Support City First Responders and Co-Responders

Denver, CO – Caring for Denver Foundation under leadership from Executive Director, Lorez Meinhold, and Board Chair, State Representative Leslie Herod, recently approved grants to first responders and co-responders supporting Denver residents in mental health and/or substance misuse crisis. $2.2M will be awarded to support the following:

  • The Denver Police Department (DPD), in partnership with Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD), will expand the existing co-responder program. The expanded program will direct more people with mental health and/or substance misuse needs to the appropriate community resources, reduce hospitalizations and incarceration, and improve system response, especially for those in mental distress and/or with historical traumas that may impact their engagement with law enforcement.
  • DPD will pilot a community response program in Denver called Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) modeled from a successful program in Eugene, Oregon, to provide mobile crisis response to mental health and/or substance misuse situations that do not require law enforcement presence. STAR will engage community partners to adapt this approach that sends a paramedic, mental health provider and peer support navigator to low-risk behavioral calls to de-escalate and connect a resident in distress with appropriate services.
  • Denver Health Paramedics and the Denver Fire Department, which comprise the Emergency Medical Services (EMS), will develop and pilot training for front-line staff on identification and verbal de-escalation practices for those in a mental health and/or substance misuse crisis.

“We are excited to fund work that focuses on impact and invests in potential. We will partner with those on the front lines to address the right challenges with the best solutions. And, this is just the beginning,” said Lorez Meinhold, Executive Director of Caring for Denver Foundation.

“This initial funding will focus on ensuring our first responders have the tools they need to help those in mental health and substance misuse crisis, diverting them from the criminal justice system and toward the right care. This is just the start of game-changing work in Denver,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, Board Chair.

“We are thankful for Caring for Denver and the people of Denver for making this possible. It will have a huge impact on helping individuals in need,” said Denver Police Department Chief Paul M. Pazen.

Caring for Denver will soon release a strategic funding priorities report outlining areas of focus for upcoming grant request opportunities. The report is the result of a robust community engagement effort to identify and prioritize community needs representing input from more than 1,600 creatives, people with lived experience, first responders, youth and so many others across 120 organizations and through four forums, three virtual sessions, small community meetings, and by phone.

About Caring for Denver Foundation
Caring for Denver Foundation was founded and funded with overwhelming voter support in November of 2018 to put 25 cents from every hundred dollars spent into a community fund for mental health and substance misuse issues. Caring for Denver will distribute at least $35 million per year to support programs in Denver that:

  – Increase mental health and substance misuse prevention, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction

  – Provide alternatives to jails and emergency rooms as a first stop for those in crisis

  – Fund community-identified priorities

Caring for Denver Foundation is a public 501c3 nonprofit organization integrated with and accountable to stakeholders across Denver with oversight from 13 Board members appointed by the Mayor, District Attorney, and City Council President. Representative Leslie Herod serves as the board chairwoman.

About Lorez Meinhold
Lorez Meinhold serves as the Executive Director of Caring for Denver. She brings over nineteen years of implementation and policy experience as a director of multilateral initiatives involving the public, private and civic sectors, working at the local, state, and national levels. Lorez has worked in many capacities integrating health programs addressing mental health and substance misuse needs, connecting early childhood and health communities, delivery and payment system reforms, and efforts that required statewide stakeholder engagement.

About Rep. Leslie Herod
Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod (D-Denver) was elected in 2016 as the first LGBTQ African American in the Colorado General Assembly. Since then, she has passed 52 bills, addressing criminal justice reform, mental health, addiction, youth homelessness, education, and civil rights protections. Herod championed the Caring for Denver Ballot measure and now serves as Chair of the Caring for Denver Board.

About Chief Pazen
Chief Paul M. Pazen serves as the 70th Chief of Police for the Denver Police Department. Chief Pazen began serving the Denver community as a police officer in 1995 and his experience includes 12 years of command level experience in several areas of police operations. For the six years prior to his appointment to Chief of Police, Chief Pazen was the Commander of District One, during which he led an ambitious effort to enhance police services, create an environment of team building, collaboration, and fostering innovative crime prevention strategies, while instituting transparency and accountability, and empowering residents and sustainable community/police relations.

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