Chris Richardson and Carleigh Sailon with the Mental Health Center of Denver (left and right) and Spencer Lee, a Denver Health paramedic, stand in front of the Support Team Assisted Response's new van. June 8, 2020. Photo Credit: Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Society USA22. February 2021

How Nonviolent People Are Getting Help Instead of Jail Time

After six months of activity, a young program established in Denver, United States, dedicated to putting nonviolent people in the hands of healthcare workers instead of police officers proved to be a success.

“We run an unbelievable amount of calls for such a limited pilot program and have had some really good outcomes on those calls,” says Carleigh Sailon, one of two civilian social workers on the Support Team Assisted Response program, or STAR. Since June 1st, 2020, the team responded to a total of 748 incidents, and none required police or led to arrests and jail time.

The empathic approach STAR adopts helps to keep people out of an often-cyclical criminal justice system. Around 35% of calls to STAR come from police officers, which goes to prove “how much officers are buying into this, realizing that these individuals need a focused level of care,” says Matthew Lunn, Ph.D., author of the report. For Chief of Police Paul Pazen, the presence of a support system such as STAR solves two problems at once: getting harmless residents the help they need while letting police focus on police issues. “If it can lighten the load on mental health calls for service, substance abuse calls for service, and low-level issues, then it frees up law enforcement to address crime issues.”


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