Members of the Mental Health Partners Founders’ Legacy and other major donors gathered on Wednesday, September 28th in the Rocky Mountain Climbers’ Club room at Chautauqua Park for an annual luncheon to honor their current and future generosity. The Founders’ Legacy is composed of individuals who have included MHP in their estate plans. The theme of this year’s event was “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”, which will also be the theme of MHP’s year-long 60th-anniversary celebration that kicks off in November.
The luncheon kicked off with a short presentation, “From Madness and Mayhem to Mental Health and Wellbeing” from ancient times to the present, with a special focus on care and treatment in the United States since 1900 as well as federal legislation that shifted care from state institutions/hospitals and established community mental health centers across the country. It was against this historic backdrop that the Mental Health Center of Boulder County – now known as Mental Health Partners – was incorporated in November 1962.
Following this presentation, several speakers took the stage which included four Executive Directors/Chief Executive Officers whose leadership spans four decades.
Past: Phoebe Norton and Barbara Ryan
Phoebe Norton served as Executive Director from 1982 to 2002. She began her service at MHP in 1966 as a volunteer before working as a psychiatric social worker. In her presentation, she shared highlights of her leadership, pointing out that because of significant grants to community mental health centers, Medicaid, and flexible integrated funding, this was a time of innovation, creativity, and excitement.
One of the highlights Phoebe remembers was the development of collaborations across systems that affected clients’ lives such as preventing out-of-home placements for all ages, achieving social recovery, and preventing incarceration of youths and adults.
Barbara Ryan served as CEO from 2004 to 2015. She reflected that if there was a theme in during her tenure it was integration, including with other organizations such as Salud Family Health Centers and Clinica Family Health (to co-locate mental health providers with medical offices), SCL Health/Good Samaritan Medical Center (to place therapists and prescribers in their affiliated outpatient practices), and Boulder County Public Health (which resulted in the incorporation of its Addiction Recovery Center and the Detox Center into MHP).
Other highlights under Barbara’s leadership included more focus on evidence-based practices such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), starting the EDGE (Early Diversion, Get Engaged) co-responder program in partnership with local law enforcement, and expansion of services in both Longmont and Broomfield to keep pace with population growth in these communities.
Present: Jen Leosz
Jen Leosz, one of MHP’s current co-CEOs since 2020, reported that Mental Health Partners continues to innovate and develop new programming to help fill community needs. Some of the recently added programs include Moving Beyond Trauma, which provides care for clients who have experienced significant physical and/or emotional trauma. Other new services include the implementation of behavioral health homes that are designed to provide coordinated care designed around each client’s unique needs, the opening of a clinic in Nederland in collaboration with Clinica, and much more.
Jen commented that in order to continue its innovative work, MHP has had to look for alternative funding sources. As the first community mental health center in the state to be designated by SAMSHA as a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic – and therefore supported by a multi-million-dollar grant – MHP has been able to better serve the Latinx and unhoused communities, as well as develop a Community Health Worker program whereby trained team members conduct outreach and engagement to connect community members with services and resources.
Of course, Jen acknowledged that recently there have been several notable changes as a result of COVID and the lockdown. The pivot to telehealth services continues as an option today. This shift increased access to care for some and has supported the needs of many MHP employees, although it has increased the acuity of conditions among clients who deferred care. Transition to a hybrid work schedule has also been highly beneficial to employees by allowing more flexible schedules.
Future: Dixie Casford
Looking to the future, Dixie Casford, current Co-CEO, shared a few thoughts on the biggest challenges and opportunities in the years ahead. For instance, as more competition and choice become available, funding for mental health services will be diluted – which, in turn, causes concern about what that means for some existing services. What’s more, the workforce shortage will continue and organizations like MHP will be challenged to adapt.
There is much work to be done in health equity and to assure that all people have access to care. At Mental Health Partners, we believe that technology will lead to more innovation in how and where care is provided.
We invite donors and friends to participate in upcoming opportunities to learn more about Mental Health Partners “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow” throughout our 60th anniversary year.