Douglas County celebrates new funding for mental health initiative

A Douglas County initiative focused on using collaboration to address mental health needs is getting…

A Douglas County initiative focused on using collaboration to address mental health needs is getting an influx of cash. 

On Monday, county commissioners joined U.S. Democratic Rep. Jason Crow to accept more than $600,000 of federal money for the county’s Mental Health Initiative, which some have said could be a model for other parts of the state. 

While a large area with wide-ranging interests, Douglas County’s residents have repeatedly said mental health is a top concern, and for nine years now, the county’s Mental Health Initiative has been the solution. Funded by the county, it’s made up of more than 40 partner organizations, which all communicate and collaborate to provide crisis and substance abuse care to adults and adolescents.

“We have hospitals, we have nonprofits, we have mental health centers, and everybody just puts down their silos, they come together and talk about, ‘how can we solve these problems together?'” said County Commissioner Lora Thomas.  

According to Thomas, that collaboration has been the key to success. One example is the Community Response Team, which pairs a mental health clinician with a law enforcement officer on crisis calls around the county.

“In May of 2017, we launched our first community response team,” Thomas said. “By the end of this year we will have nine teams, two dedicated just to kids in school, because we have seen how effective they are.”

On Monday, Thomas and her colleagues celebrated new federal funding secured by Congressman Crow. It’ll go toward a 24/7 walk-in crisis center, mental health clinician program for veterans, and adolescent crisis services unit.

Speaking to commissioners and several partner organizations, Crow called mental health support one of the most important community issues, especially for kids and teens.

“It is no surprise to parents that we are in the middle of a mental health crisis for our children,” Crow said. “What [the initiative] does is go to the root of the issue, to parent education, to violence interruption, to crisis intervention.”

Bill Henricks’ company, All Health Networks, is among those that will benefit from the increase in funding, as it has worked with the county since the start of the initiative.

He said the funding will be crucial as they try to meet unprecedented demand.

“I think it’s exactly the type of partnership and collaboration that’s needed, and in fact, what we’re seeing now across the country is regional behavioral health networks that are developing because all of the different providers are realizing they can’t do it on their own,” Henricks said.

“We feel like we’re going to do a much better job of connecting people with crucial services.”

All Health Network and county leaders are working with a developer on the walk-in crisis center, which will be located in Parker. They expect it to be complete and ready to open in one to one-in-a-half years.