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THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 2021

🏙️ TODAY IN DENVER

Mayor Michael Hancock announced his $1.49 billion proposal for the city’s 2022 budget last week, including a variety of new programs and investments across the various departments. There’s obviously still a lot to dig into, but there was one small announcement that caught our eyes: $1 million for a new Crisis Response Team in Denver jails.

When Chief Financial Officer Brendan Hanlon was breaking down that particular line item, he invited Denverites to think about the new CRT like “a STAR program inside our safety facilities.”

The Support Team Assisted Response, or STAR, program is, of course, Denver’s initiative to replace cops with mental health professionals on some 911 calls. It’s been hugely successful in avoiding needless arrests.To the mayor’s credit, he upped STAR’s budget for 2022, allowing the program to expand to new parts of the city. But what makes STAR so special is the recognition that mental health professionals are better suited for some calls than cops. So how would that kind of program work in Denver’s jails?

We asked some questions, and it’s still unclear exactly how this is going to play out, but we can say that there are no plans for clinicians to replace officers in jails, but instead to “work alongside” them to “prevent and de-escalate crises involving individuals with serious mental illness,” according to a spokesperson for the Denver Sheriff Department (DSD).

Unlike with STAR, DSD is not partnering with the Mental Health Center of Denver on this new program. Instead they’re keeping it entirely within the department. “DSD is currently recruiting and hiring for the CRT to include seven clinicians and one supervisor to start in 2021, which would all be at the Downtown Detention Center,” the spokesperson said. “If the 2022 budget is approved, we will expand the team by hiring four more clinicians for the County Jail.”

“It is important to the [DSD] to lead with humanity in our response to all crises, including individuals with serious mental illness,” she added.

☀️ It’s heating back up a little today, with temps in the low to mid 80s and clear skies all day long.

— Bree Davies (@cocodavies) and Paul Karolyi (@paul_karolyi)

📰 IN OTHER NEWS

💰Colorado’s economy bounces back
As folks return to work and traveling, restaurant and hotel revenues have recently exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Still, concerns loom over supply chain problems and the potential impacts of federal aid drying up. Gov. Jared Polis says there’s still plenty of work to be done to get the economy back on track. “Our economic success is tied to our public health, so we continue to encourage Coloradans to get vaccinated to protect themselves, our economy, and jobs.” [Colorado Sun]

🏘️ City Council approves $27 million in affordable housing
Two major affordable housing developments got the green light earlier this week. City Council approved more than $27 million in funding for The Rose on Colfax, an 82-unit complex going up in East Colfax, and Rhonda’s Place, a 49-unit complex on South Federal. On top of being affordably priced, The Rose will feature an early childhood education center, behavioral health services, job training and more. Rhonda’s Place will focus on connecting with potential tenants who are currently experiencing homelessness. The Rose plans to open in early 2023 and Rhonda’s Place is eyeing a winter 2022 unveiling. [Denver Gazette]

👮 DPD wants more than $245 million from Denver’s 2022 budget
The city’s budget conversation continues — and Denver Police Chief Pazen says the city is in dire need of more law enforcement. According to Pazen, 99 cops have left the force since January with more expected to depart before the end of the year. In order to restore the department’s numbers, DPD has requested an additional $7.6 million, representing a more than 7% increase over the department’s 2021 budget. In total, DPD has asked for $245 million for the year, with a portion going to train 144 new recruits and fill vacancies. [Denverite]
👉 What you can do: Read Mayor Hancock’s complete budget proposal for 2022

👨‍👩‍👦‍👦 Colorado expects 1,500 Afghan refugees
Most of our new neighbors are set to be placed in the Denver metro area and Colorado Springs. Resettlement agencies and non-profit organizations say they will be needing plenty of help, looking to connect with everything from monetary donations to employment and housing opportunities. There’s also a particular need for translators who speak Dari and Pashto to help the process of resettling folks. [Westword]
👉 What you can do: Donate to the Colorado Afghan Evacuee Support Fund, which will distribute grants to organizations in Colorado that assist with resettlement of refugees

🎙 TODAY'S PODCAST

Did We Really Need to Close Civic Center Park
14 mins
The City has shut down Civic Center Park citing violence, crime, drug use, and unsanitary conditions. Headwaters Protectors founder Ean Thomas Tafoya organizes what he calls “compassionate trash service” in the park, and he’s got a different perspective on what the problem really is.

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🗓️ MARK YOUR CAL

+ TODAY: Farmer’s Market at Clement Park
Head over to this Littleton favorite and shop in-season, Colorado-grown fruits and veggies plus fresh breads, locally sourced prepared goods, and more.

+ TONIGHT: Park Hill Farm & Flea
Feast at an array of food trucks, enjoy craft cocktails and soak in some live music at this evening flea and farmer’s market.

+ FRIDAY: RiNO ArtPark Grand Opening
Kick off a weekend of workshops, demonstrations, live music, and of course, art exhibits at this brand new greenspace and community hub.

🌭 MOMENT OF JOY

Credit: Kersten Jaeger via Westword

Finally, some answers to the burning question you didn’t know you had: What happened to the hot dog carts outside Denver’s Home Depots? Apparently they all closed down in March 2020, denying many hungry home-improvement enthusiasts their hard-earned meat treats. Westword’s charming little investigation into the hows and whys made me smile, with its twists and turns and anonymous hot dog vendor confessions. But in the end it was an unsatisfying response from Home Depot corporate that delivered the bad news: “We’re continuously evaluating the needs of our business, and we found that in some areas we need to repurpose the space to better serve our customers’ home improvement needs.” Fortunately, at least one metro area Home Depot hot dog cart has made the cut -- the one in Arvada reopened recently -- so if you’ve had a hankering for some home-improvement fuel, you know where to find it. [Westword]

Got an idea for us? Email us at denver@citycast.fm.
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