AURORA | A new team of health care workers hits the streets of northwest Aurora this week with eyes toward reducing police responses to non-criminal crises.
Members of the so-called Aurora Mobile Response Team begin their first shift at 10 a.m. Wednesday, responding to citizen-initiated calls four days a week in the area between the municipal border with Denver and Interstate 225 to the east, and East Sixth Avenue to the south.
The team comprises a manager, a paramedic and a mental health clinician who respond to incidents involving “individuals experiencing a behavioral health crisis related to mental health, depression, homelessness, poverty and/or substance use issues,” according to Cristal Dukes, spokesperson for the City of Aurora.
No member of the team has arresting authority, and they will not respond to incidents involving violence or life-threatening injuries, Dukes said. Police will not respond to calls with the new unit unless additional assistance is needed.
The program is currently funded to operate until March 2022, at which point city officials will evaluate its efficacy and consider additional funding.
Aurora City Council members unanimously underwrote the pilot last fall, allocating $160,000 for the six-month program modeled after the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets, or CAHOOTS, program in Eugene, Oregon.
Allison Hiltz, who helped shepherd the creation of the program, lauded its rollout.
“Experiencing a mental health crisis is not a crime, and this program offers a more appropriate and compassionate response,” she said.
City staffers worked with the local advocacy group known as DASHR for nearly two years to craft the new program. The same group helped create a similar scheme in Denver, known as the Support Team Assisted Response, in 2020. That program, also known as STAR, has resulted in zero arrests and recently got the green light for expansion, according to reporting from Denverite.
The new Aurora program will dovetail with the work of the city’s standing Crisis Response Team, which Aurora police and Aurora Mental Health formed with grant funding in 2017. The group features one police sergeant, five officers, two clinicians and one clinician manager, according to city documents. The clinicians often place subjects of mental health calls on 72-hour holds, admitting them to local hospitals for treatment.
The new manager of the mobile reposes team, Courtney Tassin, previously worked with the police department’s crisis response crew, according to her LinkedIn page.
To access the team, residents of northwest Aurora can call 911 or the police department’s non-emergency line, 303-627-3100 between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and request the assistance of the Aurora Mobile Response Team.