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Amid migrant crisis, Denver to train emergency responders on DEI

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(The Center Square) – A week after George Floyd was killed on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis, the city of Denver launched the STAR program, which had a team of behavioral health clinicians and paramedics respond to low-risk 911 emergency calls as opposed to the police.

Now, with huge influx of migrants arriving from the Texas border, the city is planning to hire a non-profit to educate Support Team Assisted Response members on culturally appropriate and diversity, equity and inclusiveness training. It’s part of a contract that if approved by Denver City Council will cost the city an additional $2.3 million.

The city has served 39,052 migrants since January 2023. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has targeted Denver as a destination for migrants due to its status as a sanctuary city.

Denver currently faces a nearly $60 million budget deficit, and Denver Mayor Mike Johnston has said for the city to maintain current services for migrants, it would cost taxpayers well over $100 million over the next year.

Denver City Council on Wednesday will consider the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment’s request for the city to approve an amendment to a contract with La Raza Services Inc., doing business as Servicios de La Raza, by adding $2.3 million for a new total of $4.6 million and extending the contract an additional 10 months. Besides cultural training, Servicios de La Raza provides “Culturally, Geographically, and Linguistically Appropriate Services” case management and many administrative responsibilities.

The amended contract between the city of Denver and Servicios de La Raza would be valid until Dec. 31, 2024, according to city documents.

Danielle Nachowitz, a media relations manager for Servicios de La Raza, said the cultural training was not specific to the newly arriving migrants.

“Because the STAR program serves people of all backgrounds with varying life experiences, it’s important to ensure the service providers have access to and receive ongoing training and support,” Nachowitz said in an email to The Center Square.

According to their website, Servicios de La Raza works with the community to advocate for culturally responsive human services and opportunities by offering behavioral health and health care, as well as financial services.

This organization will continue to work with the STAR program as it previously has since the end of 2022.

The STAR program is run through the non-profit WellPower, a group of social workers who respond to non-violent 911 calls previously made by police.

The city of Denver didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

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