September is suicide prevention month
[ By Katherine Nettles ]
Gunnison Valley’s non-profit CB State of Mind could be considered a “front door” for people seeking treatment but unsure where to start with mental health care. Executive director Meghan Dougherty describes it that way, and from the number of mental wellness therapy sessions CB SOM has provided local residents in just the first three quarters of 2021, she seems to be on to something. What started as a grassroots effort responding to a clear need in the valley in 2019 has grown quickly in provider numbers, clients and supporters. Dougherty says the key has been collaboration.
CB SOM launched its main program of providing free mental health care to uninsured or underinsured Gunnison County locals in April 2020, which of course was at the beginning of a worldwide pandemic leading to higher levels of stress and anxiety for many. That year, the program provided 475 free sessions to residents.
“We have been able to keep up with demand,” says Dougherty, which is no simple task in a pandemic. In 2021, this program has already provided 61 individuals access to 661 free sessions and is on track to perhaps double that number by year’s end. The total number of people served in two years is 107, through 1,136 sessions. The organization networks with 19 local providers, and also has a user agreement with two additional telehealth providers in case in-person providers reach capacity. The scholarship provides up to 10 sessions per person, free of charge, through various grants and private donations. The idea is to get people started on a path to wellness and then help them establish long-term care.
“The collaboration piece has been huge,” says Dougherty, who came on as director in 2019 as the Community Foundation was bringing CB SOM under its fiscal structure. Local support for the program comes from business sponsorships, municipalities, other non-profits and private citizens. There is also state funding involved, including COVID-response grants.
The program has a system of keeping in touch with all providers to be aware of who is not taking new clients, who is, and what other mental health resources might be a good fit for someone.
“We have not had to turn anyone away and try to connect people to resources that can provide long-term care,” she says.
That includes a relationship with the Center for Mental Health, Project Hope, Gunnison Valley Hospital’s new behavioral health department and mobile crisis team, the Gunnison County Health Coalition and most recently, Western Colorado University through its Western Rising program.
“It’s a lot of relationships. We all have our individual niche,” says Dougherty. She emphasizes that CB SOM is an up and down valley organization, despite the name CB in its title. And she emphasizes that in many cases, such as the new partnership with Western, CB SOM is helping supplement what is already offered. “Western has free counseling services on campus for all students, faculty and staff,” she points out. So, CB SOM is there when additional availability is needed. “We are considered an underserved area,” she says of the valley. This refers to the ratio of residents to providers.
Dougherty says the network between these entities is central to the program.
“We are working hard to be that navigator for someone,” she says. “We are just there to fill those gaps, keeping access for everyone who needs it available.”
September is suicide prevention month, and CB SOM is spearheading a collaborative stigma reduction campaign, launching soon.
“I think that shift is really happening,” says Dougherty of people’s willingness to talk about suicide and mental health needs. She hopes to repeat the green light bulb again next spring, in which people could show their support by simply placing a green light bulb in a window of their home as a beacon of solidarity around the valley.
Dougherty reflects that the Gunnison Valley community is interconnected, much as an aspen grove and as described on the organization’s thoughtfully curated website. “We all care about the health and well-being of our communities,” she says.
Additionally, CB SOM is recruiting more providers to join its growing network and is also accepting volunteers to help with campaigns and events.
For more information about CB SOM and to apply for a 10-session scholarship, visit cbsstateofmind.org
For Colorado 24 Crisis Services: text TALK to 38255 or call 844-493-8255.