Wednesday, August 5, 2020

In a CB State of Mind

Having problems? You are not alone, and anyone can afford this counseling

By Dawne Belloise

To state the obvious, these are difficult times. COVID-19, unemployment, isolation, no hugging, restricted activities, cancelled events, fear, division and lost freedom to live the Crested Butte lifestyle. Depression and anxiety creep in and overwhelm us. Reality seems surreal.

Many who need mental health counseling don’t have the funds, or their insurance won’t cover it. Many don’t know how to reach out for help, or feel ashamed. The reality is, we’re all in this together and by no means are you alone.

Crested Butte State of Mind (CBSM) is a new non-profit organization created to help in the effort to reduce the rate of suicides in our community and valley; to connect those people in need of mental health services with the counseling they need; and to provide the financial resources for the services.

Executive director of Crested Butte State of Mind Meghan Dougherty explains that the community members started crying out, needing to do something about losing their friends. The group formed with the idea that something better could be done to help people in need of both mental health support and the finances for counseling. They formed the official non-profit to address some of the community’s biggest needs.

Dougherty says, “The biggest barriers are access to mental health services.” In a recent community assessment by Gunnison Valley Health, mental health rose to the top of the list for the second time. “So it remains a priority in our community,” Dougherty says. “More specifically, barriers to access due to affordability. Many insurances don’t cover it. Some do, but a lot of community members are not insured or underinsured.”

Crested Butte State of Mind is working on two things: increasing access and increasing awareness of resources. “We’re the mental wellness connector. The first program we’ve implemented is a therapy scholarship program so people who are uninsured or underinsured can apply. We’ll connect that person with 10 free sessions with a local provider, providing free access. We’ve connected 17 people to date since the beginning of April.”

Since COVID-19 hit the county, CBSM has seen an increase in the number of applicants. “When we launched the program in April, we were able to connect eight people in the first two months and then in June those numbers doubled,” Dougherty says.

The organization has seen daily inquiries and applications for the program. “The impact of the corona pandemic has really started to take a toll on people’s mental well-being. The stress from loss of income, isolation, lack of connection to community, and the uncertainty of these times is causing anxiety,” says Dougherty.

“I’m finding people who had underlying struggles that were once potentially manageable and are now being exacerbated by the uncertainty,” Dougherty continues. “We’re trying to reduce the stigma that surrounds asking for help. We’re trying to tell people that it’s okay to not be okay, and you’re not alone. It’s okay to not to be able to get through it on your own and Crested Butte State of Mind is here to be a resource to connect people to free mental health care.”

Crested Butte State of Mind currently has 19 scholarships available and has secured $60,000 over the last couple of months from private donations and grants. Some of those included a community grant from the town of Crested Butte, the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley, the Katz Amsterdam Foundation and the Colorado Covid Relief Fund.

Dougherty notes of the fund-raising, “Mental health is an essential need and people are starting to realize that and they stepped up to fund it. We’re now looking for more support financially from our community, to support your friends and neighbors. We’ve gained an incredible amount of support and it’s sustained us for now but we’re really looking to keep up with the increasing demand. We know people are struggling but any small amount donated can make a big impact.”

Their website, cbstateofmind.org, contains information and mental health resources on subjects such as how to talk to someone who is struggling; how to apply for the scholarship; and many useful contacts.

“There are also local and statewide resources beyond what we’re providing. We’re trying to be one central spot in our community where people know they can go to find the resources they need,” Dougherty says. “We’re really listening to our community in terms of what people need and trying to facilitate a process that addresses those needs in a way that works for our unique community. We know what the data tells us—Gunnison County has a higher ratio, nearly twice the rate of suicide deaths in the state. There’s a lot of different reasons, and it’s consistent across resort communities. CBSM is part of a network where we’re learning from other organizations and resort communities across the country on how to address these unique needs. We’re having shared learning platforms and conversations.”

Dougherty points out that within Gunnison County there is a lot of effort and many organizations working on improving the mental health system. “We’re really collaborating with those entities because this issue is bigger than any one person’s ability to address it. Crested Butte State of Mind is a little piece of the puzzle and our focus is to increase awareness and access of resources.”

Get yourself to their newly launched website at cbstateofmind.org or call Meghan Dougherty at (970) 596-4698 or email mdougherty@cbstateofmind.org.

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