Denver, CO

70 percent in Denver program reduce substance use, report says

David Heitz

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By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) Caring for Denver has made great strides in combatting substance abuse and mental health problems for Denverites, according to its 2021 annual report.

Created by a city ordinance, Caring for Denver launched in 2019. Sales tax dollars fund the foundation.

The foundation gave out more than $35 million in 2021. The grants included:

· Jail alternatives, $8.6 million

· Access to care that "reflects, represents, and values unique cultures and needs," $9.8 million.

· Community-centered solutions "that prioritizes cultural relevance, and community collaboration," $4.3 million.

· Responding to emerging needs in the community, $2 million.

· Care for youth to "reduce crisis and increase resilience for coping with life stressors," $8.2 million.

Less than 5 percent of the sales tax revenues go toward administration costs for the foundation.

Data shows great results

This marks the first annual report with a full year's worth of data on clients in the program. The report shows that of hundreds of grant participants assessed, 70 percent demonstrated or reported reduced substance misuse, 83 percent reported improved or maintained mental health, and 86 percent did not re-enter the criminal justice system.

Money from the foundation goes to:

· Non-profits that provide mental health services and treatment for children and adults

· Opioid and substance misuse prevention, treatment, and recovery programs

· Housing and case management services reduce homelessness, improve long-term recovery, and reduce the costly use of jails and emergency rooms for those with mental health and substance misuse needs.

"We support organizations providing care and connection to services at transitional housing settings like day shelters and safe outdoor spaces, and through mobile vehicles," the report said.

"We also invest in critical self-care and hazard pay for staff providing services to the unhoused."

The foundation supports Colorado Village Collaborative, which runs four legal tent camps in the city for people experiencing homelessness. Its programs include:

· Suicide prevention

· Co-responder and alternative response program funding and training on how to properly assess and interact with people with mental health and/or substance misuse needs.

· Expanding Denver's STAR program, which dispatches a mental health professional and a paramedic instead of police on calls involving people in crisis but not breaking the law.

According to the report, the foundation supported projects in every neighborhood in the city. The report includes a complete list of grantees.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best local newspapers in the country. Today, I report on Denver City Hall, homelessness and other topics for NewsBreak, much like I did in my twenties covering Newport Beach, Calif. for the Daily Pilot. I consider myself a lucky guy to still be doing what I love after so many years.

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