As we enter the endemic phase of COVID-19, I’m often asked about the mental health toll the pandemic had on the people of Denver and how operations at Mental Health Center of Denver (MHCD) were impacted. Founded in 1989, MHCD provides the largest volume of behavioral healthcare services in Colorado and is a place for recovery, resilience, and well-being, known nationally as a model for innovative and effective care.
The World Health Organization recently reported the pandemic triggered a 25 percent increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression. Nationwide, one in five people experience a mental health challenge in any given year, yet, only 40 percent of people who need help access it. Here in Denver, the rise in demand for services is also coupled with an unprecedented workforce shortage.
Three years ago, we embarked on an initiative to update the way we represent who we are — not only our values and approach to service delivery, but the role we hope to have in people’s journeys toward better well-being.
We could not have anticipated all the changes that have taken place since then, and we recognize this moment as an inflection point in the way our society embraces mental health. To more fully embody our identity, and “open the door wider” for more people in Denver, we are changing our name and updating our brand.
MHCD is now: “WellPower.”
The name WellPower promotes the vital connection between a person’s mental health and overall well-being. It also coincides with operational changes to help us better serve a new Denver, so very different from the Mile High City of 30 years ago.
Here are just a few of our new programs to help improve well-being in Denver:
TherapyDirect is our new, virtual counseling service that connects people with urgent mental health needs to therapists and peer-based support experts.
With TherapyDirect, people can connect real-time for intake, quickly access a WellPower staff for help, schedule up to three visits when support is needed most, and get follow-up support and referrals. Kiosks are available throughout Denver for people who don’t have access to their own personal screen.
Living Wage Initiative
Simply put, we can’t serve more people if we don’t have the staff to handle the demand. To address this, we did something bold: WellPower became the nation’s first — and only — community mental health center to implement a Living Wage Initiative that ensures an annual income minimum of $50,000 for our full-time staff.
WellPower became the nation’s first — and only — community mental health center to implement a Living Wage Initiative that ensures an annual income minimum of $50,000 for our full-time staff.
Since launching this initiative in December 2021, the applications we’ve received have increased by 60 percent, while our vacant positions have decreased by 36 percent.
With more staff, we can treat more Denverites and improve our city’s well-being.
Groundbreaking Programs to Help People with Serious Mental Illnesses
Denver is one of the only major U.S. cities to offer a mental health response to certain 911 calls. Denver’s cutting-edge Support Team Assisted Response (STAR) program sends a WellPower clinician and a Denver Health paramedic to low-acuity 911 emergencies.
What’s more, in May of 2021, the city opened the Behavioral Health Solutions Center. This facility gives first responders a place to bring people in crisis and offers immediate triage, crisis stabilization, and a 30-day stay in transitional housing, all on-site.
The Solutions Center was created to help end the revolving door of emergency department, jail, and homelessness experienced by many people in our city and is part of our innovative care to treat the most seriously ill.
In May of 2021, the city opened the Behavioral Health Solutions Center. This facility gives first responders a place to bring people in crisis and offers immediate triage, crisis stabilization, and a 30-day stay in transitional housing, all on-site.
Telemental Health Options
During the pandemic, our delivery model went from almost entirely in-person to virtual in a matter of days. While we are opening up for more in-person care, we continue to offer telemental health options, which increase our capacity to serve more people.
Telemental health allows us to meet people in their own homes or workplaces and can eliminate the bus fares, childcare, and other barriers to traditional in-person appointments — a game-changer for the people we serve.
Putting the “Community” in Community Behavioral Health Center
WellPower currently has 242 community partnerships in place across Denver Metro and the Front Range. We make it possible to access mental health care in schools, nursing homes, hospitals, shelters, correctional facilities, and more. Offering care in concert with trusted community partners helps us reach more people.
While the pandemic disrupted our sense of normal, it also normalized mental health more than ever, with more people openly discussing challenges and seeking care.
As we move forward as WellPower, we are committed to further increasing access and helping more people power the pursuit of well-being in Denver.