The foundation in charge of granting money to organizations addressing mental health and substance abuse in Denver announced on Thursday the recipients of the first $2 million in funding.
Approximately $35 million annually will go to treatment, recovery and harm reduction services through the Caring for Denver Foundation. The organization is the nonprofit set up after voters approved a 2018 ballot initiative to raise taxes for the fund.
The Denver Police Department will receive $1.7 million to expand its co-responder program, in which social workers ride with officers to address the needs of those in crisis and divert them from custody. The department will also initiate a pilot program for $208,000 to create mobile crisis unit in which paramedics, mental health providers and peer support navigators respond to and deescalate low-risk behavioral calls. Last week, Denver released a “Road to Wellness” report that recommended the creation of a first responder mechanism “distinct from law enforcement” to address behavioral health calls.
Denver Health Paramedics and the Denver Fire Department will also receive $24,000 to develop training protocols for identifying and deescalating behavioral health crises.
“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,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, who also chairs the foundation’s board.
Editor's note: This story was updated with the amount of each grant award. Also, an error in the announcement overstated the total grant amount. It is $2 million.