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On Saturday, July 20, Chris Ross and Ed Cannon hosted the First Annual Envision:You Garden Party at their beautiful home in the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver.

“Chris and I recognize the impact stigma and marginalization has on LGBTQ+ folks, and we are glad we had an opportunity to host this event to increase awareness around the behavioral health needs of the community,” said Ed Cannon, Ph.D., who is a professor at the University of Colorado Denver.

Envision:You is a LGBTQ+ mental health and substance use disorder initiative. According to Steven Haden with the Mental Health Center of Denver and co-founder of Envision:You, “Our focus is on connecting individuals to LGBTQ+-friendly resources enabling them to find life-changing hope and empowering people in need to ask for help despite stigma and marginalization through a statewide campaign.”

Haden added, “We are also working to expand community outreach in order to increase awareness of the unique behavioral health and wellness needs of LGBTQ+ people, as well as advocating on behalf of the community to ensure providers in Colorado are best able to deliver culturally responsive and affirming care. And, finally, we want to establish a statewide network of LGBTQ+-competent therapists and counselors through partner agencies.”

According to Jerry Cunningham, executive director of OUT FRONT Foundation and a co founder of Envision:You, “to get Envision:You where it is today, the Mental Health Center of Denver, OUT FRONT Foundation, and the Envision:You team had the opportunity during the past year to meet with more than 100 community leaders as well as Colorado Governor Jared Polis to help prioritize the objectives of the initiative. We recognize the gravity of these issues and look forward to collaborating with organizations statewide that are committed to addressing LGBTQ+ mental health.”

Among the attendees was John Walsh, the former United States Attorney for the District of Colorado under President Obama, and a candidate to unseat Cory Gardner to become Colorado’s next U.S. Senator. Mr. Walsh had this to say about the initiative:

“The LGBTQ+ community faces challenges that result in higher rates of mental health and substance use issues alongside disparities in care that can make addressing those issues far more difficult. Envision:You’s mission of tackling those issues directly with the LBGTQ+ community, health care providers, and elected officials is inspiring and deeply needed. I felt honored to attend this important kick-off event.”

October 21 through 25, Envision:You, the Mental Health Center of Denver, and the University of Denver (DU) are participating in the inaugural Colorado Behavioral Health and Wellness Summit on the DU Campus. During the week-long event, the Summit will bring together clinicians, educators, researchers, and policymakers, as well as other leaders in the field of behavioral health, to address the pervasive burden marginalized communities and young people encounter.

According to Dr. Waltrina Defrantz-Dufor, director of the Collegiate Recovery Community at the University of Denver, “The Summit will offer more than 30 workshops and trainings designed by individuals working every day to make a difference in the lives of people affected by mental illness and/or a substance use disorder. We hope participants will take away knowledge to implement best practices, policies, and programs to help confront the growing mental health crisis in Colorado.”

To learn more about Envision:You and the Colorado Behavioral Health and Wellness Summit as well as find LGBTQ+-friendly resources, please visit envision-you.org.