CDHS celebrates BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month in July


Additional block grant funding will fund equity initiatives in behavioral health

DENVER — The Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) is celebrating Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) Mental Health Awareness Month throughout July as its Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) plans to invest about $5 million in federal stimulus dollars to support behavioral health equity initiatives.

Led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month, also known as Minority Mental Health Awareness Month, aims to improve access to mental health treatment and to help break down stigma and other barriers to care. People of BIPOC communities are less likely to receive diagnosis and treatment for a mental health disorder, have less access to mental health services and often receive a poorer quality of mental health care, according to the HHS.

“Our 2020 needs assessment shows we have much further to go in improving access to and responsiveness of services for BIPOC Coloradans,” said Robert Werthwein, director of OBH. “We are dedicating resources to not only expand our reach within BIPOC communities, but also recruit more BIPOC providers into the workforce so more Coloradans can work with a professional who shares their cultural background or experiences. We want to thank our partners for recognizing this important month with us and supporting our efforts to make equity a cornerstone of behavioral health reform.”

Over the next two years, OBH plans to spend about $5 million of additional block grant dollars from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA) stimulus package to advance equity initiatives, including hiring peer specialists in Latinx and Tribal-serving organizations, boosting funding for organizations that prevent substance misuse among BIPOC youth, and recruiting more BIPOC providers into the behavioral health workforce.

OBH also is retooling its marketing campaigns to reach more BIPOC Coloradans. Lift The Label, which combats stigma of substance use disorder (SUD) and connects Coloradans to treatment in their communities, will feature new BIPOC spokespeople in the next phase of the campaign that launches later this year. This spring, OBH awarded $200,000 to four organizations — Servicios de La Raza, CREA Results, Burks Communications and Developmental Pathways — to promote Colorado Crisis Services and Lift The Label among Latinx, Black and disability communities.

The efforts underway are part of a broader CDHS strategy to make human services more inclusive for Coloradans of color. Each CDHS office is implementing an equity action plan to improve outcomes among historically marginalized groups.

“At CDHS, we are doing all we can to ensure programs and services put people first,” said Anne-Marie Braga, deputy executive director of community partnerships for CDHS. “We are proud to support efforts like BIPOC Mental Health Awareness Month that celebrate the unique experiences, strengths and qualities Coloradans bring to our communities.”

The preliminary OBH spending plan for the CRRSA funds includes the following allocations for behavioral health equity initiatives over the next two years. Funding amounts could change depending on bills passed in the 2022 legislative session or emerging priorities.

OBH equity investments for CRRSA funds

$1 million and $500,000 will fund peer specialist positions within Latinx- and Tribal-serving organizations, respectively

$900,000 for the state’s Healthy Transitions program to expand access to linguistically and culturally responsive mental health and supportive services, prioritizing transition-age youth (ages 15-26) who hold intersectional identities 

$750,000 to promote Colorado Crisis Services to BIPOC communities

$700,000 for SUD services for Tribal populations across the state

$600,000 for an equity and community engagement director position, translating OBH forms and branding materials, and community outreach grants for organizations working with EDI populations

$560,000 for programs that prevent substance misuse among BIPOC and LGBTQ youth

$250,000 to cover licensing costs for BIPOC providers

If you or someone you know is in crisis or needs help dealing with one, call 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. Learn more at coloradocrisisservices.org.

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