Mental Health First Aid Agency of the Year

Pictured above: MHFA Instructors Erich Lange, Paul Reich and Ben Marshall of Tri-County Health Network (missing from photo, Kody Gerkin), which was recognized as the 2018 Organization of the Year by Mental Health First Aid Colorado in October. 

Mental Health Matters!  To each of us as individuals.  To our families and friends.  To our communities.  And, of course, to Tri-County Health Network.  In the past three years TCHNetwork has expanded from a single Mental Health First Aid instructor offering teaching one class in 2015 to a broad portfolio of programs that include not only education and awareness programs such as Mental Health First Aid, but direct therapy services in schools, creating and implementing a Behavioral Health Strategic Plan and leading collaboration efforts across our communities, and hosting regional behavioral health summits in our region. 

Mental Health First Aid Colorado recognized TCHNetwork as the Mental Health First Aid Agency of the Year for 2018, during which time we held 19 classes and taught the course to 274 individuals.  We taught all of the staff in the West End School District, a substantial majority of the San Miguel County government staff, and many of the graduating seniors of the Telluride and Ridgway High Schools.  

We conducted our first advocacy campaign to work for the passage of the ballot measure 1A on the November 6th ballot in San Miguel County to expand community-based mental health and substance use disorder services in the County.  The successful conclusion of the campaign, in which nearly 66% of San Miguel residents voted “Yes,” will result in over $600,000 being invested in community mental health services across San Miguel County.  Mental Health Mattered to the voters in our county! 

TCHNetwork has worked over the past 18 months to expand access to a variety of mental health therapists in our area schools.  We have accomplished this by giving students access to therapists from across Colorado via a computer video and audio link (think “Skype” or “Facetime”) – called teletherapy.  Students can choose which therapist to talk to, can attend therapy sessions without leaving school, and can do so at no cost.  We were able to expand our teletherapy services in the schools to include Naturita Elementary, Nucla Middle/High School, Paradox Charter, Cedaredge High School, and Ridgway Middle/High School.  We are looking to expand into the Ouray and Ridgway communities through a collaboration with Ouray Public Health, and are hopeful that the Telluride School District will begin to utilize the service this spring semester. 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness Family to Family class, a twelve-week educational program for individuals living with individuals with a mental illness completed its first cohort of 14 community members from Telluride, Norwood, the West End, Ridgway, and Ouray in September.  This program teaches individuals to support and advocate for their loved one, family member or friend, to learn more about their illness, and to learn how to take care of themselves.  The initial group meets monthly as a support group.  The second cohort of 8 individuals started in January. 

We received the only Drug Free Communities grant (a federal grant) awarded in Colorado–it is a five year grant to reduce youth substance use.   In 2017 we received the Communities that Care grant from the state in order to build a coalition in the community to support our youth.  The two grants, both directed at supporting youth and reducing youth substance use in the Telluride area, represent significant investments in the substance prevention work around youth 

Finally, in conjunction with our 2018 Behavioral Health Summit, we were able to host a community event featuring school safety and mental health professionals and, through the generous support of the Peter G. Dodge Foundation, Sue Klebold, a mental health activist, TEDTalks speaker,  and parent of Dylan Klebold, one of the two students who killed 13 individuals at Columbine High School in 1999, to Telluride to share her powerful story about mental health and wellness.  We learned from Ms. Klebold and the other experts to see the signs when children need help, and how to advance mental health awareness and intervention.   

Paul Reich, Behavioral Health Program Manager 

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