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On October 21-24, the first annual Colorado Behavioral Health & Wellness Summit attracted more than 500 participants who took part in the nearly 40 workshops and trainings on the campus of the University of Denver. The impressive response and participation demonstrated the incredible interest, need, and concern for the health and well-being of all in Colorado. Additionally, state leaders Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services Michelle Barnes, along with State Representatives Leslie Herod and Colin Larson, added their perspectives to the meaningful conversations.


Representative Leslie Herod addressing the crowd at CBHW Summit. Photo by Andrew Fish, chief of staff.

Workshops and trainings specific to the LGBTQ community included LGBTQ-Affirming Therapist Training by Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado School of Medicine Robert Davies, M.D.; Enhancing Transgender and Non-binary Affirming Care Practices in Primary Care Settings by Andrew Miller from Denver Health’s LGBTQ Center of Excellence and Denver Prevention Training Center; Getting High to Get Close: A Queer Perspective by Justin Lewis and Cass Daniels from Mile High Behavioral Healthcare; and Media and the LGBTQ+ Community by Sheena Kadi, the deputy director of One Colorado.

Mental health issues and substance use continue to challenge good health and well-being in the State of Colorado and in the United States. “By nearly every metric—suicide ratethe prevalence of mental health issues, vaping, and death from drug overdoses—our state is in crisis,” said Steven Haden from the Mental Health Center of Denver and Envision:You, a statewide, LGBTQ mental health initiative.

It’s estimated that about 20 percent of Colorado’s adult population—about 832,000 people—are living with a mental health condition according to a 2019 report from Mental Health America, and more than 600,000 of them aren’t being treated for that illness. The report goes on to say that some 67,000 Coloradans say they needed treatment for drug or alcohol use in the past 12 months but did not receive it. And just in the past month, we learned that youth suicide in the state is up 58 percent from 2016, the greatest spike of any state in the nation and the leading cause of death for Colorado’s youth and young adults. Haden added, “Stigma, fear, and lack of understanding compound the suffering of those affected and prevent the bold action that is so desperately needed and so long overdue.”

Related article: World Mental Health Day, Check Yourself

According to Colorado Lieutenant Governor Dianne Primavera, “Everyone deserves access to quality, affordable care, but too many Coloradans aren’t able to get the behavioral health services they need. There is a lot of work being done around mental health services in Colorado, but still a lot left to do. We remain committed to ensuring that all Coloradans have the tools they need to live happy, healthy lives.”

CBHW Summit

Interactive workshop in session at CBHW Summit on gender identity and working with transgender populations. Photo by Veronica L. Holyfield

The behavioral health concerns in Colorado and nationwide have been recognized by community, healthcare providers, institutions, and policy makers. According to Nancy Lorenzon, PhD., from the University of Denver, “we realize that we have a long way to go in terms of making mental health and substance use treatment available and accessible to everyone in Colorado.”

Related article: Envision:You

“In 10 years, I envision a Colorado where those in crisis can get help. A Colorado where there are no waitlists, where all schools provide mental health treatment, and no one is stigmatized for asking for help,” said Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod. “A place where LGBTQ individuals don’t have to struggle in silence for fear of harassment or discriminatory care. The success of this Summit showed that I’m not alone in thinking this is possible.”

Workshop on diversity and inclusion in health care facilities at CBHW Summit. Photo by Veronica L. Holyfield.


During the Summit, clinicians, educators, students, policymakers, and community members came together to address these critical health concerns. Participants were engaged to break down silos statewide and to bridge the gaps in communication and collaboration in order to discover new tools and resources, discuss practical strategies for change, and connect with colleagues and experts.

“We hope this community collaboration will foster an increased focus on tackling these difficult issues,” said Dr. Lorenzon.

Participant taking notes during workshop session at CBHW Summit. Photo by Veronica L. Holyfield


OUT FRONT Magazine, OUT FRONT Foundation, University of Denver, the Mental Health Center of Denver, and Envision:You were sponsors of the Colorado Behavioral Health & Wellness Summit (CBHWS). For more information about CBHWS, including dates for 2020, visit http://portfolio.du.edu/COHealthandWellnessSummit. To learn more about Envision:You, please visit envision-you.org.

The opening night and 16 additional workshops and presentations were audio recorded and will be offered as podcasts through Emergency Medical Minute (https://emergencymedicalminute.com) to expand the reach of the impact throughout the state of Colorado and beyond.