News Briefs

More Resources for Coloradans in Crisis
Story and Photo by Matthew Van Deventer

Peer specialist Terri Veliz.After launching last year, Colorado’s first ever statewide mental health crisis hotline is fully operational and entering the last phase of its program rollout.  

The Colorado Crisis Support Line, 844-493-TALK (8255), is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with both peer specialists and professional clinicians standing by, ready to talk, coach, follow-up, and provide referrals to all in need and for whatever they need. 

The hotline is a big part of the commitment made in 2013 when Senate Bill 266 was passed outlining how $20 million dollars would be spent to improve Colorado’s mental health crisis response system.  

“We do not want to lose one more person to the tragedy of suicide, gun violence, substance abuse, or mental illness,” Governor John Hickenlooper said in an August 2014
press release.  

“Colorado made an unwavering commitment to redesign and strengthen our mental health service support system and this is a critical step. The statewide hotline increases access to care for anyone in need and will help safeguard our residents, our families and our communities.” 

Metro Crisis Services, Inc. (MCS) took on the challenge of expanding their services statewide. After winning a competitive bid in 2014, they finalized a contract with Colorado Department of Human Services, forming the Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners.  

When the hotline first rolled out last year, the south Denver offices housed only 21 employees with six workstations. Today, they have 52 employees and 27 workstations for administration, two supervisors, a call center director, and a researcher who focuses on what resources are available for staffing.  

Bev Marquez started with MCS in 2010 as the Director of Operations and became CEO in 2012. She says the hotline is, “the first part of the statewide crisis system that got rolled out as a comprehensive, no wrong door, seamless system.” 

Before the statewide hotline was rolled out, MCS received 150 calls a day. After Robin Williams’s death in Aug., it saw over 300 calls. These have leveled out to around 270. At any moment, 3–4 percent of any state’s population is in need of mental health assistance, and Marquez staffs accordingly. The call center takes about 60,000 callers a year.  

“The overall goal of this program is so it’s easier to know where to start if I need help. Second is that we provide a good alternative to going into the emergency department at a hospital and that we have alternatives to calling 911,” said Marquez. 

When someone calls the hotline number, they are offered two choices: a crisis counselor or a peer specialist. All counselors have a masters or doctoral degree with training and experience in crisis intervention prevention. Peer specialists are trained to use their own experiences dealing with mental health issues to relate with callers. If a caller doesn’t know what he needs, he is transferred to a counselor.  

After talking, the clinician or peer may direct the caller to their counterpart or a clinician will send them to a local walk-in clinic or request a mobile crisis unit to their location. Each caller, many of whom are return callers, get a confidential client record so clinicians and specialists can make follow-up calls as necessary. 

During peak times—mid-morning, after dinner, and Saturday nights—there are upwards of 10 professional clinicians and five peer specialists, with two clinicians available overnight. 

Marquez anticipates 480 callers a day when the program is fully rolled out and publicized, which will be when the population is in full knowledge of the hotline. This month will see additional publicity, but after that, Marquez says, “it will be word of mouth and other grassroots activities.”   

If you’re suffering from a mental health disorder, are concerned about someone else, have questions, or just need someone to talk to, call 844-493-TALK (8255). No eligibility or finances are needed. Also, visit their site at www.metrocrisisservices.org or www.coloradocrisisservices.org for a comprehensive list of over 3,000 statewide mental health resources. ■

 

CCH Breaks Ground on New Housing Development

Last month the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless broke ground on Renaissance at North Colorado Station, a mixed income housing development that will meet the needs of low income and homeless individuals and families. The building will have 103 apartments ranging in size from studios to three bedrooms. Apartments will be made available to families and individuals with incomes between $16,000–$32,000, or 30–60 percent of median area income. About half of the building will house homeless households—including 26 units that will be reserved for homeless veterans. 

Similar to the Stout Street Renaissance Lofts, the Renaissance North will offer supportive services to homeless and special needs residents. The building will include amenities such as laundry facilities on each floor, a computer room available for all residents to use, a children’s play area, and a community garden.

The project is expected to be completed in December. ■  

  

Creating Change LGBTQ Conference
By Ilse Reardon

The 27th Annual National Conference on LGBTQ Equality: Creating Change is coming to Denver this month. The conference will primarily focus on the LGBTQ equality movement and is expected to draw up to 4,000 attendees.

In a statement, the director of Creating Change Sue Hyde said, “The pace of change for the LBGTQ community is accelerating, and much of the progress we’ve been able to accomplish is a direct result of the education and organizing that occurs at Creating Change each year.” Hyde also notes that historically the conference is responsible for training over 40,000 activists and community leaders. “We’ve made significant gains in our work to secure basic rights for LGBTQ people, but our nation’s promise of full equality is yet to be fulfilled. Our work to create change continues.”  

The conference will be held at the Sheraton Hotel February 4–8 and will offer over 350 events including workshops, networking opportunities, film screenings, community caucuses, and interfaith services all focused on building leadership skills and organizing toward equality and better quality of life for LGBTQ citizens. ■