For the past 10 years, the Denver LGBT community has had the pleasure of working with the Denver Element, a program of Mile High Behavioral Healthcare that offers services for people living with HIV/AIDS, transgender people, and men who consider themselves gay, bi, queer, questioning, or non gender-conforming.
Founded by Robert Dorshimer, the Denver Element offers both substance use and mental health treatment services in a non-judgmental environment.
“The Denver Element is a resource for those seeking support, counseling or a way to connect with the community,” says Jeffery Patterson, MSW, LSW, behavioral health program manager. “I hear stories daily of how our clients are drawn to our client-centered approach. We help others in some of their most challenging moments and enjoy the opportunity to see them grow. We see our prevention and counseling efforts improve the lives of those living with HIV while combating the virus via our PrEP pioneers. I believe we are a huge asset to the community and we are constantly seeking ways to grow and improve our service delivery.”
Currently, the Denver Element accepts Medicaid for people who qualify for it and Ryan White for people living with HIV/AIDS who meet the income requirements. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program provides a comprehensive system of care that includes primary medical care and essential support services for people living with HIV who are uninsured or underinsured. This program works with cities, states, and local community-based organizations to provide HIV care and treatment services to more than half a million people each year.
In addition to substance and mental-health treatments, the Denver element also offers a variety of social and prevention programs such as Pique, a fun, engaging way for young gay, bi, trans, and questioning men to connect and Positive Impact, a program that provides a way for individuals living with HIV to learn, meet, and support each other.
“We offer marketing, outreach, education, and retention services for PrEP, and we are the first agency outside of NYC to deliver the Young Men’s Health Project, a free, four-session counseling intervention designed to reduce substance use and sexual risk in our community,” Patterson says.
The Denver Element is constantly expanding, growing, and adapting to the ever-changing environment. Donald Trump won the presidential election recently, which has caused not only the LGBT community in Denver, but the LGBT community across the country to fear and worry. A question on the minds of many is, will organizations like the Denver Element be impacted in a negative way?
“Trump winning the presidency will most certainly have an impact on the Denver Element as we see how much of an impact it is currently having on the world,” Patterson says. “Our plan moving forward is to continue to be sensitive to our clients’ needs in this tumultuous political environment. The services we offer are essential at this time and we’ll continue to be here to meet the needs of the community.”
Adam Stanford, a mental-health therapist with the Denver Element, agrees.
“November 9th was not a particularly happy day at the Denver Element,” he says. “Our primary reaction was to reach out to our community and let them know that we are here to help. We all need to keep a close eye on the situation and discuss our concerns together with the agency. We try not to jump to too many conclusions and just take it one day at a time. Mile High Behavioral Healthcare is incredibly supportive of our program and we are fortunate to have people it its leadership looking out for us and the community that we serve.
“At this time, we are not aware of any immediate threats from the incoming congress and president, but our agency is watching the situation very closely,” he continues. “Our biggest concern is the possibility of the reversal of Medicaid expansion which could result in the loss of care for about 20 million people including most of the people who we serve. There is also a possibility that Ryan White services for people living with HIV/AIDS could be cut, but we do not foresee any major changes in that area at this time. The agency is on high alert and always looking into ways to ensure that we can continue to serve the community no matter what happens. It is important to keep in mind that Trump has already reversed many of his campaign stances since the election ended so we don’t really know much at this time.”
Both Patterson and Stanford have heard a lot of concern from the Denver LGBT community regarding the increase in documented hate crimes and ugliness toward people who are not heterosexual or cis-gender. In addition, many have expressed concerns about health care for people with low income and living with conditions such as HIV/AIDS, the well being of people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds and that the media has often times made situations worse by reporting stories that incite fear and panic.
“For those who are concerned about the Trump presidency, it’s okay,” Patterson says. “You should be concerned. Trump is appointing a cabinet full of anti-LGBT representatives daily. However, that does not mean you should give up or shut down; quite the opposite. It is important now, more than ever, that we come together as a community and stand up for the right we have worked so hard to achieve as well as the rights we have yet to receive. The Denver Element is here for this very reason. Whether you want to meet new friends, learn more about PrEP or talk to someone about how you feel — there’s a place here for you. We want to meet you, support you and provide an environment where you can grow. We look forward to meeting you.”