Denver, CO

Denver adding vans to expand STAR program

David Heitz
City and County of Denver

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) A Denver City Council committee will approve an agreement Wednesday with Denver Health and Hospital Authority to spend $526,318 to buy five vans for its Support Team Assistance Response program.

The item is on the consent agenda for the Public Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee meeting. Consent items are considered routine and usually not discussed before a vote.

The STAR emergency response teams include a social worker and a paramedic instead of a police officer.

STAR began as a pilot program serving people with poverty, substance abuse and mental health problems. People in duress often need help but usually aren't breaking the law.

Instead of sending a police officer when someone is in distress, 911 operators can dispatch a STAR unit that can help provide services.

Mental Health Center Denver manages the program, but Denver Health supplies the paramedics.

An intergovernmental agreement allows the city to purchase the vans via Denver Health. Denver Health will work with several subcontractors to equip five 2022 Ford transit cargo vans with computers, wheelchair lifts, Wi-Fi, and more.

STAR staff expects the vans to arrive this fall. Then they will need to be customized.

Denver City Council voted in February to expand STAR citywide. But obtaining the vehicles needed to support those services has proven difficult due to supply issues, city staff told the council.

According to a city staff report, when all five vans operate, STAR can serve as many as 10,000 people per year.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at community newspapers in Southern California and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am proof that people can rebound from even severe mental illness with proper treatment. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living in the Mile High City. You can email me news releases and story ideas at

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