Denver, CO

Denver fire, park rangers may add mental health clinicians

David Heitz

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WellPower

By David Heitz / NewsBreak Denver

(Denver, Colo.) A $2.8 million grant from Caring for Denver Foundation will pay for three additional mental health clinicians in the fire department and park rangers program.

The clinicians will be part of Denver’s co-responder program, which already serves the police department. With the program, licensed mental health clinicians from WellPower, formerly Mental Health Center Denver, respond to calls for service involving people with mental health emergencies. Those who encounter clinicians as part of the co-responder program receive case management.

According to a memo by city staff to the City Council, the positions will “reduce dependency on, unnecessary use of Denver’s formal crisis response services, reduce unnecessary hospitalization and reduce entry/recidivism into the criminal justice system for those with mental health and substance misuse needs.”

The council will vote Monday whether to accept the grant..

Program addresses mental health

According to the WellPower website, the program aims to:

  • Reduce the number of people with mental health issues in jail.
  • Improve information sharing and coordination across systems and service providers.
  • Reduce costs related to people with mental or behavioral health concerns, including emergency services.

Co-responders at airport, RTD, Auraria campus

The co-responder program also partners with RTD, Denver Sheriff’s Department, Auraria Campus and Denver International Airport. “Crisis can take many forms and is defined uniquely by the individual,” according to WellPower’s co-responder website.Clinicians and officers collaborate to provide treatment in a format that best decreases current stressors and replaces them with long term community-based supports.”

No arrests 98 percent of the time

According to WellPower, of all encounters made:

· Ninety-eight percent did not result in arrest.

· Ninety-seven percent did not receive a ticket.

· Clinicians recommended two-thirds for mental health treatment.

· Thirteen percent received recommendations for substance abuse treatment.

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, 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 living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. 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 here.

Denver, CO
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