Samantha Rabins, of Mental Health Center of Denver, prepares to roll out with an officer at Denver Police District 5 on Friday, Dec. 21, 2017. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post)

Colorado police agencies, armed with $21M in marijuana tax revenue, try to steer mentally ill, drug addicted away from jail

In a new approach, police in 10 communities will divvy up $21.5 million in aid from Colorado to try cleaning up high-crime areas by steering people struggling with drug addiction and mental health disorders toward treatment and housing instead of incarceration.

Officials with the Colorado Department of Human Services announced the awards Wednesday.

“We’re thrilled,” said Doyle Forrestal, CEO of the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, a consortium of behavioral health providers in the state, which lobbied for the state financing. “We think it’s the most innovative and effective way we can use to get people into treatment in a direct way.”

The money will finance programs that will run three to five years, with state officials planning on assessing the results to determine whether the funding should continue and spread to other communities. The state is using sales tax revenue from the sale of medical and recreational marijuana to finance the initiatives.

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