This case study is part of the Reimagining Public Safety Impact Updates Resource, which highlights successful programs in cities, towns and villages across the country. View the Reimagining Public Safety Initiative to learn more about NLC’s work in creating safe, equitable communities for all. This is one of four municipalities illustrating the Community Response Model, which relies on trained, unarmed civilians to respond to crises and provide behavioral health services.

Denver, CO (pop. 715,522): Support Team Assisted Response (STAR)

Denver’s Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program, administered by the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE), is a mobile crisis response team responding to some of the city’s calls for service. Originally launched as a pilot in several neighborhoods in 2020, STAR now offers citywide coverage with eight vans and 16 responder teams. The program is looking to expand to 24/7 service by 2025. In 2024, STAR has a base budget of $7.2 million, increased from the 2022 base budget of $3.9 million. 

Servicios de La Raza (SDLR) contracted with DDPHE in November 2022 to provide culturally responsive, linguistically specific, and geographically appropriate wraparound services personalized to individuals’ identified needs after a STAR response. SDLR organized a STAR Community Partner Network, initially, made up of five located throughout the City of Denver. STAR works alongside residents who provide programmatic guidance and help to raise awareness and understanding of the program.

The STAR community response program cost four times less to respond to crises than police response, lowering the average cost for each incident from $646 to $151.

In 2022, the STAR program responded to more than 5,700 calls for service (44 percent of eligible calls), and STAR responded to over 7,000 calls for service in 2023 (46 percent of all eligible calls).  From June 2020 to December 2020, Denver had 1,400 fewer criminal offenses (34% decrease) in neighborhoods with STAR service compared to those without STAR. Denver police have praised STAR, framing the program as a sustainable approach to better outcomes for individuals experiencing mental health crises. The program is funded by the Caring for Denver Foundation and Denver’s general fund.

Key performance metrics collected include:

  • Calls diverted from traditional police response  
  • Rate of calls responded to of eligible calls  
  • Number of calls referred to mental health or substance use treatment
  • Number of clients transported to a community resource

Acknowledgements for contributions and review from Maria Martín, STAR Community Services Director, Servicios de La Raza; Evan Thompkins, Program Specialist, DPHE STAR; Sam Rabins, Associate Director of Criminal Justice Services, WellPower; Stephanie Van Jacobs, STAR Program Manager, WellPower.

View the Reimagining Public Safety Impact Update

Learn more about what different cities have done to support public safety, including qualitative and quantitative measures highlighting the impact of community responder models, group violence interventions, hospital-based violence interventions and community violence interventions.