AURORA, Colo. — Three months into the Aurora Mobile Response Team Pilot Program, city leaders said the team has diverted dozens of calls away from the police and emergency departments.
Similar to Denver's STAR Program, dispatchers send a paramedic and licensed clinician to non-violent emergency calls instead of police officers.
“We’ve gone on 116 calls total so far, and it’s just one team in this sort of small area, so that was amazing,” said Courtney Tassin, Aurora Mental Health Response Team program manager.
Tassin said the team focuses on District 1 in Aurora, especially the section of the district that falls along East Colfax Avenue.
“They respond to a range of calls. Really the only thing that bars them from attending a call or responding to a call is if there’s a mention of weapons or violence,” Tassin said.
Over the past 90 days, Aurora police officers have requested the team 30 times, according to the latest statistics from the city. Tassin said 11 calls have been diverted away from emergency departments, saving patients a total of $44,000.
Despite the success of the two-person team, Tassin said dispatch identified 600 calls that could have been handled by the mobile response unit if the team were larger.
“They’re just one team right now. They’re sort of in this concentrated area, so we can’t guarantee an AMRT response, but we do prioritize the calls,” Tassin said.
Dee Akers, the Aurora Safe Outdoor Space manager, said she’s called the Aurora Mobile Response Unit several times over the past few months.
“We are not mental health practitioners here, but those services are certainly necessary for a site like this,” Akers said.
Akers said the team has been able to help several of her clients.
“We had a client who had been having a horrible week, had some issues with her children. Her kids don’t live with her and she was experiencing a very large amount of distress because of that. We were able to call them… they helped her out just in that moment, but they were also able to connect her to crisis services,” Akers said.
Akers and Tassin said they hope the city will expand the program.
At the end of the six-month trial period, this spring city leaders will review Aurora Mobile Response Team data and decide if the program will become permanent.