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On November 7 at the Center for Visual Art, Caring for Denver Foundation held its public launch event. The well-attended event included leaders such as Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod and Carl Clark, M.D. from the Mental Health Center of Denver. Both of them, along with other community leaders, advocates, and persons with lived experience pushed to bring increased funding for mental health and substance misuse needs into reality.

“The energy residents showed through their vote in November of 2018 is invigorating as we lay the foundation for this game-changing work,” said Lorez Meinhold, executive director of the new Caring for Denver Foundation.

“No longer will we let our friends, family, youth, and neighbors suffer from mental health and substance misuse in silence. We’re eager to begin work to ensure our communities have the right resources and support they need to heal.”

Every day, thousands of our neighbors struggle with mental health and substance misuse, often without the support and resources they need. This is especially true of the LGBTQ community considering, 

  • In LGBTQ people ages 10-24, suicide is the second-leading cause of death (Centers for Disease Control, 2013).
  • People in the LGBTQ+ community experience mental health issues at higher rates. A recent study found 61 percent have depression, 45 percent have PTSD, and 36 percent have an anxiety disorder (Rainbow Health, January 2018). Overall, one in three LGBTQ adults experienced mental illness during the past year (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2015).
  • An estimated 25 percent of the LGBTQ community abuses substances, compared to about 9 percent the general population (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015).
  • In a national study, 40 percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. Also, 92 percent of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. (The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality).
  • LGBTQ  older adults face several unique challenges, including the combination of anti-LGBTQ+ stigma and ageism. Approximately 31 percent of LGBTQ older adults report depressive symptoms; 39 percent report serious thoughts of taking their own lives (American Psychiatric Association, 2017)

In 2018, Denver voters chose to change this all-too-common reality through the Caring for Denver Foundation. More than $40 million raised each year through increased sales taxes will support the behavioral health needs of folks living in Denver. The effort will, in part, enhance and increase: 

  • Mental health and substance misuse prevention, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction;
  • Provide alternatives to jails and emergency rooms as a first stop for those in crisis;
  • Fund community-identified priorities.

Our community is hurting. I see our alarming rates of suicide, and there are three to four overdoses on the streets of Denver every day,” said Caring for Denver Board Chairwoman and State Representative Leslie Herod. Herod, who championed the successful 2018 ballot initiative ‘Caring 4 Denver.’ She added, “The Foundation and new funding will be transformative for tens of thousands of Denverites who struggle every single day with untreated and under-treated mental health and substance misuse challenges. We have the #PowerTo help, and now we can act.”

During this month and into early December, Caring for Denver Foundation will hold several community-wide events to better understand the specific concerns individuals and families are confronting. As part of this effort, Caring for Denver will be hosting events focused on the unique needs of  LGBTQ+ individuals in partnership with Envision:You, One Colorado, and The Center on Colfax.

The events will be held:

November 25, University of Denver, Sturm Hall 379, from 5:30 p.m.  – 7:30 p.m.

December 4, The Center on Colfax, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. and again 5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Space is limited for each of the events. 

According to Envision:You co-founder Steven Haden, “It’s wonderful Caring for Denver Foundation is dedicated to ensuring voices from marginalized communities are heard. We are grateful to the team at the Foundation for their work to address the unique needs of the queer community who face disparities in accessing and receiving care as well as experiencing poor outcomes.”

To learn more about the Caring for Denver Foundation including upcoming public forums, please visit caring4denver.org/ events. To keep up with efforts by Envision:You to improve the mental health of Colorado’s queer community, visit envision-you.org.

If you or someone you know is experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis, please contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255.