Denver is sending mental health experts instead of cops in response to nonviolent calls
via CBS / Denver

Last Friday, a police officer in Salt Lake City, Utah shot a 13-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder who was suffering from a mental health crisis. According to a GoFundMe page, the boy was left with serious injuries to his shoulder, ankles, intestines, and bladder.

The boy's mother, Golda Barton, requested a crisis intervention team to transport her son to a hospital for treatment and believes the police reaction was excessive.

"He's a small child. Why don't you just tackle him?" Barton said according to NPR. "You are big police officers with massive amounts of resources. Come on, give me a break."

This story out of Salt Lake City is another in a long list of incidents over the past few months that have inspired Americans to rethink the role that armed police officers have in society.


via GoFundMe

A recent program out of Denver, Colorado has found that having unarmed mental health professionals respond to matters that don't threaten public safety can be even more effective than armed officers.

On June 1, Denver's new Support Team Assistance Response (STAR) program hit the streets. The STAR program builds off of Denver's co-responder program that paired mental health professionals with armed police officers starting back in 2016.

Since its launch, it has responded to more than 350 911 calls often connected to unmet mental or physical needs.

These teams, made up of mental health professionals and paramedics, are better equipped to handle Denver's most vulnerable populations and they also allow police to respond to violent situations.

The team has responded to unhoused people in distress, people having suicidal ideation, indecent exposure calls, trespassers, and people simply acting strangely.

via Caring for Denver Foundation / Twitter

STAR teams aren't pressured to respond to more pressing, violent calls so they take a more personal approach to helping people. The team has been able to work on some calls for up to two hours.

"It's the future of law enforcement, taking a public health view on public safety," Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen told The Denver Post. "We want to meet people where they are and address those needs and address those needs outside of the criminal justice system."

Having the STAR and co-responder teams gives dispatchers a better chance to solve problems by giving them a the opportunity to match situations with those best trained to handle them.

"We're really trying to create true alternatives to us using police and jails," said Vinnie Cervantes with Denver Alliance for Street Health Response, one of the organizations that helped start the program.

The STAR program is currently only working in the central downtown area of the city, but community groups hope it will expand citywide. Organizers are also working to help other municipalities, such as nearby Aurora, to adopt similar programs.

"It really kind of proves that we've been working for the right thing, and that these ideas are getting the recognition they should," Cervantes said.

It's impossible to know whether a program like STAR would have prevented a 13-year-old boy with autism spectrum disorder from being shot in Salt Lake City. But there's no doubt that armed police officers shouldn't be a one-size-fits-all solution to keep our cities and their residents safe.





Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Welcometoterranova and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Welcometoterranova-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.