The events of the last several years have shown the world the importance of a strong and united public health system. Under unprecedented demands, the team at the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) has worked tirelessly to protect and improve the health of our residents and ensure a safe community. Our department has grown to include additional public health services that are essential in strengthening our work operationally and addressing policy and systems-level change. As Denver's nationally accredited local public health agency, we use a data-drive approach and a health equity lens to empower Denver's communities to live better, longer. - Bob McDonald, Executive Director & Public Health Administrator
Click through each section to learn about some of DDPHE's accomplishments in 2022 or view our annual report(PDF, 20MB).
Taking care of Denver's neediest animals
Denver Animal Protection (DAP) and the Denver Animal Shelter (DAS) provide animal care and protection services for all of the City and County of Denver.
In 2022, DAP officers responded to over 20,000 calls for service, including 1,296 call for animal cruelty and 2,313 calls for animal neglect. DAP managed 23 hoarding cases and issued 336 breed-specific permits.
In 2022, DAS housed and cared for 6,016 animals in 2022. Of that:
- 2,748 animals were adopted to loving homes
- 722 animals were fostered by our incredible foster volunteers
- 1,818 lost animals were reunited with their families
- 27 families assisted through the Safe Haven Program - a program that offers temporary shelter for pets of families experiencing temporary homelessness.
The DAS veterinary clinic provided care for 9,250 animals and vaccinated 7,774 community pets.
See more DAP accomplishments in their 2022 Annual Report(PDF, 4MB) .
Ensuring equitable access to mental and physical health services and opportunities for wellness.
The Community & Behavioral Health division informs, educates and empowers Denver’s communities to live a healthy lifestyle, to reduce chronic disease through awareness and prevention programs and to implement population-based strategies to address social determinants of health. We work to reduce barriers to accessing mental and physical health care.
Expanding Care for People Who Use Substances
The Substance Use Navigator (SUN) Program served 1,709 people in 2022. The SUN Program deploys behavioral health specialists, otherwise known as SUN navigators, alongside specialized outreach teams to more effectively respond to calls for behavioral health needs, link those individuals to appropriate services and divert folks from unnecessary legal system involvement and/or hospitalization.
Through the Overdose Prevention Program, over 38,000 fentanyl test strips and over 14,000 naloxone kits have been delivered for free to Denver residents.
The Wellness Winnie team, Denver's mobile behavioral health unit, has severed over 12,000 people, visited 617 sites around the city, and provided 955 instances of peer support navigation.
Preventing suicide by providing tools and resources
We Got This! suicide prevention programming served over 1,000 people, a majority youth in high school and middle school.
Resiliency in Communities Affect by Stress and Trauma (ReCAST) programming served 2,074 people. ReCAST is a collaborative effort of 14 city agencies and community-based organizations (CBOs) working toward increasing access to mental and behavioral health services and trainings for youth and their families.
DenverStrong served 1,227 people through 67 trainings. DenverStrong provides behavioral health training grounded in evidence-based practices, free of charge for Denver-based community organizations.
Behavioral Health Support
Denver's Behavioral Health Solutions Center, a 24/7/365 first responder drop-off location for people in the community experiencing a behavioral health crisis served 1,504 individuals, including 834 for crisis stabilization and 486 in transitional shelter.
The Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program responded to 5,719 calls for service in 2022 and facilitated 2,667 clinical encounters. STAR deploys Emergency Response Teams that include Emergency Medical Technicians and Behavioral Health Clinicians to engage individuals experiencing distress related to mental health issues, poverty, homelessness, and substance misuse.
Healthy Food for Healthy Communities
The Healthy Food for Denver's Kids program supported 17,249,272 healthy meals served to children and engaged over 15,550 youth in food nutrition classes.
The Food Policy team was instrumental in the Good Food Purchasing Program Executive Order, signed in 2022 by then Mayor Michael B. Hancock, establishing policy requiring public meal programs and city-contracted food concessions abide by standards put in place by the Good Food Purchasing Program (GFPP). Under the Order, all city departments and agencies offering public meal programs or concessions must purchase food from vendors that support the six core values of the GFPP.
Resources for HIV and Sexual Health
A total of 5,315 individuals living with HIV in the Denver Metro area in 2022 were supported through Ryan White Part A funded services. This includes but is not limited to medical care, behavioral health services, financial assistance, food access, and case management services. 92% of individuals living with HIV were virally suppressed. The impact of this is that HIV transmissions will be reduced because people who are undetectable will not be able to transmit HIV.
6,259 individuals were served through the Syringe Access Program. Services to these individuals included access to unused syringes and safer injection supplies, HIV and STI testing, referrals, and support to services such as substance use/mental health treatment services, medical service, housing stability services, and food access.
Keeping Kids Tobacco Free
The DDPHE Tobacco Team enforces Denver's T-21 tobacco ordinance, which prohibits retailers from selling tobacco to anyone under the age of 21. In 2022 the team completed 861 retail inspections and issued 126 citations for violating the law.
Advocating for the air, land and water quality our city needs and deserves.
The Environmental Quality (EQ) division responds to environmental concerns around air, land and water, and we advocate for policies to improve environmental quality through federal, state and local regulations. EQ works to effectively address environmental challenges through a diverse portfolio of solutions and resources. As the city’s environmental consultant, we ensure all city agencies minimize their environmental impact.
Environmental Land Use and Planning
The Environmental Land Use and Planning teams provide oversight of environmentally contaminated site cleanup, ensures the sites are investigated and cleaned up to protect the health of residents and the environment, and ensures that the cleanup activities comply with regulations. In 2022, this team managed 4,628 concept reviews, rezoning applications, development reviews, right-of-way acquisitions, site assessments for capital projects, and site assessments for city acquisitions.
Environmental Management and Operations
DDPHE responds to environmental waste that is abandoned and needs to be cleaned up. In 2022, the team managed 58 abandoned waste responses.
The Environmental Quality (EQ) team also provides leadership in environmental management to all city departments and offices with the goal of promoting environmental stewardship and protection, supporting the city’s drive for sustainability, and ensuring city operations are in full compliance with environmental law. In 2022, EQ relaunched the Denver Environmental Performance Program, a framework to document processes and practices across city departments to reduce potential environmental impacts. Additionally, 1,700 city employees received an environmental training.
Air and Water Quality
DDPHE conducts regular inspections of Denver's air and water quality. In 2022 the team completed:
- 227 inspections of CDPHE permitted air facilities
- 128 asbestos inspections
- 80 days where water quality samples were collected in streams and lakes around the city. 342 water samples were analyzed for E.coli
Working proactively to ensure public safety by conducting independent investigations using advanced forensic science in the service of families, communities, and the criminal justice system.
The Office of the Medical Examiner (OME) identifies public health trends impacting the health of our communities and work 24/7 to provide answers to those affected by sudden and traumatic loss. The data OME collects and analyzes informs the work of our department and guides the decisions of policymakers. We also issue certified birth and death certificates for any birth or death in Colorado.
The team at OME responded to 1,486 scenes, completed 959 autopsies, and contacted 940 families offering support after a traumatic loss. Through the Vital Records program, 43,305 birth certificates and15,580 death certificates were issued.
See the 2022 Annual Report for the Office of the Medical Examiner to learn more about their 2022 accomplishments.
Monitoring and ensuring the fidelity and safety of our public resources and businesses city-wide.
Denver's Public Health Investigations (PHI) team keeps Denver’s homes, schools, restaurants, swimming pools, child care facilities, marijuana businesses and body art facilities safe. PHI is committed to resolving situations posing the greatest risk to public health and prioritize customer responsiveness, industry partnerships and training efforts through regular inspections and assessments.
Healthy Families Healthy Homes
DPHE is committed to ensuring the places where Denverites live and go to school are safe and healthy. We strive to protect, preserve, and promote the physical health, mental health, and safety of our residents and children.
In 2022, PHI conducted 574 plan reviews for new or remodeling businesses (restaurants, cannabis, child care, pools) and responded to 113 complaints of rodents or other pest infestation. The team also distributed 428 free radon test kits to Denver families in 2022.
With the beginning of the Residential Rental License, the city's largest ever license expansion, PHI partnered with Department of Excise & Licenses to develop and implement the new program. It is expected that this program will result in an estimated new 50,000+ licenses.
Healthy and Safe Public Places
Denver is home to tens of thousands of businesses like restaurants, tattoo parlors, and public and semi-public swimming pools. DDPHE works diligently to ensure these public spaces, and public rights-of-way are healthy and safe for the communities who visit them. PHI utilizes routine inspections, complaint investigations, and education to protect the safety of Denver consumers.
In 2022, PHI provided consultation regarding our noise ordinance to 284 special events around the city and conducted 574 plan reviews for new or remodeling businesses (restaurants, cannabis, child care, pools). Additionally, in 2022, the PHI team oversaw the final of five annual noise variances for CDOT's I-70 redevelopment project, an effort that resulted in extensive community engagement efforts.
The team also participated in the Downtown Action Team effort to address hazards in the core downtown area.
DDPHE strives to improve the health of Denverites by preventing disease, investigating outbreaks of communicable diseases, and reducing the spread of illness within the community. PHI uses data to halt disease, educate, and distribute resources within underserved communities and organizes community events like vaccine clinics.
2022 was the first year of DDPHE’s Epidemiology and Disease Intervention program. Great strides were made building and operationalizing the program. Additionally, we created the Endemic COVID-19 program and maintained oversight of Denver's COVID-19 response: connecting people with COVID-19 with food, health care, rent assistance and other assistance. PHI has responded to 1,432 COVID-19 outbreaks in priority settings since the beginning of the pandemic.
The PHI team was vital in Denver's first emergency response to an influx of migrant arrivals from the southern border. PHI staff spent 4,329 hours working in migrant shelters during the initial response phase in 2022.
Coordinating and leveraging partners and city services for the greatest good for our community.
The Shared Services & Business Operations (SSBO) team amplifies the work of all other DDPHE divisions, city agencies and community partners and provide Denver residents with critical information, data and emergency response. SSBO is committed to providing equitable, innovative, transparent and accountable leadership, collaboration and operational support.
Community Health Work and Workforce Engagement
SSBO supports DDPHE's focus on community engagement and workforce development. In 2022, DDPHE used funds from the CDC COVID-19 Health Disparities Grant, to employ a team of Community Health Workers to provide COVID-19 education, outreach, service navigation and other resources in under-resourced communities. They reached 11,717 people in Denver's priority communities between April 2022-February 2023.
DDPHE also launched the inaugural cohort of community health worker apprentices - the first Local Public Health Agency in the state to do so. Through this effort SSBO hired and trained four apprentices.
Contract and Grants
The contracts and grants team supported 67 grants totaling $53M, 150 contracts totaling $200M, and 300 purchase orders.
The communications and marketing team supported major marketing campaigns including: Better Days, a campaign, built around single-word expressions of joy, to help the people of Denver take care of themselves and others and realize that we’re in this together; and, What You Say Matters a public awareness campaign targeting one of the biggest barriers Denverites with mental health conditions face — stigma. Together, the campaigns reached millions of people in the city.
Equity and Engagement
in 2022, the newly created Equity and Engagement Team developed our first ever DDPHE Equity Plan, supporting our department-wide Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Steering Committee, six divisional EDI groups, and dozens of EDI-focused strategies to address inequities in public health.
Denver Fentanyl Action Summit
Overdose deaths and the number of people experiencing substance misuse in the Denver metro area are surging as the opioid epidemic continues to take an enormous toll on our community. Hosted by Mayor Michael B. Hancock and the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment in September 2022, the Denver Fentanyl Action Summit brought together public health professionals from across different fields to share learnings, resources, and best practices to mobilize action related to substance misuse to save lives. The Summit highlighted emerging strategies for managing the opioid epidemic and best practices related to harm reduction, treatment and recovery, and community-level solutions.