A study published by Science Advances found that the Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) program in Denver that uses health care responders to address emergency calls for nonviolent incidents, reduced crime by 34 percent in 2020. During STAR’s pilot year of 2020, the STAR team responded to 748 incidents and prevented almost 1,400 criminal offenses. Currently, the STAR program consists of six teams that respond to calls between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Denver intends to eventually provide coverage 24 hours a day.

The STAR program evolved from a co-responder program between the Denver Police Department and the Mental Health Center of Denver. Established in 2016, this program partnered a mental health professional with a police officer, and the pair responded to calls involving behavioral health or substance use in which there were additional concerns, such as assaultive behavior, weapons, or threats.

Additionally, the Denver Department of Health and Environment is creating a network of community-based organizations capable of providing ongoing resources to callers who receive assistance from a STAR team. Both the community and the police department have expressed support and approval of the STAR program, and all involved hope the program ultimately allows the police department to allocate more of its time to the law enforcement needs of the city. 

Read more about Denver’s STAR program here.