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May 13, 2021
Conversation Corner

I remember the first time I completely unplugged from work and the online culture: When I hiked up Kilimanjaro in 2010. My friends and I took the longest route up to the summit so that we would have plenty of time to acclimate and successfully reach 19,340 ft. It was nine days of hiking and camping and, at that time, no cell service. Upon my return to civilization, I found that the world kept turning without me!

For a long time after that, I chose trips that would force me to be “off the grid” so I could get a true break. That is getting harder and harder to do as cell towers keep popping up, even in the most remote areas of the world.

This meme hit a little too close to home. Despite the lesson learned a decade ago about how the world will continue functioning without me, setting boundaries has not always been easy. I’m usually the first to say I can join a call when I have a day off. Or respond to an email from a hiking trail.

I see others doing the same all the time….and not only does the constant grind make us less productive at work, it is also not good for our mental health.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and an opportunity for us to raise awareness and reduce the stigma. I also suggest that we all use it as an opportunity to reflect on our own mental health and make sure that we are taking care of ourselves, too. Administering our own forms of self-care will help to ensure we have the energy to reform our system in the years to come. 

Summer Gathercole
Senior Advisor for Behavioral Health Transformation

Weigh In
How will you practice self-care during Mental Health Awareness Month?
Share your thoughts!
Report Out

Last month, we asked, What do you hope for in a reformed behavioral health system? Here's what we heard:
  • 22% said Working with someone who looks like me or speaks my language
  • 22% said Recognizing that my community is different than communities on the Front Range
  • 11% said Finding a quality, experienced practitioner at a reasonable price
  • 11% said Addressing equity, diversity and inclusion across the lifespan, including early childhood
  • 11% said Improving services for the elderly
  • 11% said Accessing services in my community
  • 11% said Scheduling an appointment sooner
Phase 1 Implementation Update
Submit Feedback on Proposal to Expand the Behavioral Health Safety Net

There is still time to share your thoughts on CDHS’s proposal to expand and strengthen the safety net system. Read the draft proposal and submit feedback by this Saturday, May 15.   
Per SB 19-222, CDHS must work with stakeholders to develop a comprehensive proposal that includes needed community behavioral health services in each region of the state, as well as a funding model to sustain the safety net system. This proposal will be submitted by July 1, 2021.
Coloradans with Lived Experience Weigh in on Behavioral Health Reform

Last month, more than 70 people with diverse lived experiences with the behavioral health system gathered virtually to contribute to Colorado’s Behavioral Health Reform initiative.

The Civic Consulting Collaborative (CCC), along with volunteers from CDHS and a community partner, facilitated a two-hour convening that provided the vision for the reform work and their role in ensuring that it is “putting people first,” particularly when it comes to care coordination. 

"I'm encouraged and inspired by the Polis administration and those facilitating this process that we can, as a compassionate statewide community, end so much needless suffering." - Convening participant

CCC’s outreach to over a hundred statewide and local organizations yielded robust statewide representation, from Yuma to Moffat to many Front Range and I-70 mountain corridor communities in between. Participants hailed from nearly 10 cultural identity groups—including ethnic, age, disability and LGBTQIA+ identities—and have lived through diverse experiences, including migrating from another country, facing housing insecurity, surviving violence, and parenting a child or adult with significant behavioral health challenges. The convening findings will be integrated into ongoing behavioral health reform planning. 

Change Management Update
Thank You for Your Input
HMA recently completed interviews, targeted focus groups and an open forum with state agencies, stakeholders and consumers to discuss draft models for how the BHA could be formed to best serve Colordans.

HMA crafted the draft models based on the dialogue and comprehensive research conducted during Stage 1 of this work. Thank you so much to those who shared their thoughts, ideas, questions and concerns with the HMA team. Your experience and feedback is valued and all feedback is being taken into consideration. 

Looking Ahead

HMA will continue to adapt and refine the models—including considering new models, based on the valuable input—and plans to identify a recommended solution this summer. HMA will provide the Behavioral Health Reform Executive Committee and Governor’s Office with direct and transparent pros and cons to the recommended solution so they can make an informed decision based on priorities. HMA will also identify challenges that still need addressing as the BHA adapts over time. Based on the final solutions, HMA will work on a detailed implementation plan in partnership with state agencies, stakeholders and consumers (more engagement opportunities to be announced). HMA will deliver the implementation plan in the summer of 2021.

Check Out Our New Project Dashboard 

HMA just launched a project dashboard highlighting elements of the robust change management work underway: individuals engaged, types of diverse perspectives represented, FAQ of the week and more!

Check it out here and on the change management webpage! HMA will continue to update the dashboard throughout the project.

Have questions or looking for more information? Please continue to visit the webpage for up-to-date information about the project, FAQs which are updated weekly, opportunities to engage, and access to resources in English and Spanish. 

Behavioral Health In the News

KUNC: Too Complex, Too Difficult': Colorado Green-Lights New Agency To Reform Mental Health Services

Colorado Politics: Governor signs sweeping mental health bills to mop up after pandemic

KKTV: Colorado leaders address mental health and COVID-19 recovery

State of Reform: Gov. Polis signs bill to transform behavioral health system

Colorado Newsline: Behavioral Health Administration forming amid rising suicides, overdose deaths

Colorado Springs Gazette: EDITORIAL: Legislators should assail the mental health crisis

Events, Webinars and Opportunities
May is Mental Health Awareness Month

CDHS and our partners are proud to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, a national movement to raise awareness about mental health, fight stigma and support the estimated 1 million Coloradans with mental health conditions and their families. For this year's campaign, CDHS will shine a spotlight on behavioral health reform during the last week in May. 

Join the conversation by following CDHS on Facebook and sign up for the Office of Behavioral Health newsletter to keep up with the latest campaign information, events and resources. 

You're Invited! 9-8-8 Listening Sessions in June

Colorado's 9-8-8 Implementation Planning Committee will host two virtual listening sessions in June. The Committee is responsible for submitting a report to the Office of Behavioral Health in September advising on key capacity, funding, and communication issues as it prepares for 9-8-8's launch. Last year, the FCC adopted rules to establish 9-8-8 as the new, nationwide, 3-digit phone number for Americans in crisis to connect with suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors by July 16, 2022. Please register using the links below to join one of the upcoming listening sessions and weigh in!

Visit the Committee's webpage for more information. Send questions to

Take a Survey to Shape the Direction of Serve Colorado

Serve Colorado, the Governor's Commission on Community Service, wants to help local organizations address local community needs through service and volunteerism, such as AmeriCorps. Please take 10-15 minutes to have your voice heard about the unmet needs in your community—including behavioral health—and shape the direction of Serve Colorado. Take the survey here

Social Spotlight

Robert Werthwein, the director of the CDHS Office of Behavioral Health, addressed Colorado’s behavioral health reform efforts in this feature about mental health access in rural communities. Please visit our Facebook page and share this post with your networks. Thanks for being a champion for behavioral health! 

Get Involved! 

There are many ways to support this work:

Where We're Headed
Behavioral health reform is underway! Keep track with our project timeline: 
Stay in touch! Sign up for our email list and follow us on social media: 
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