4 QUEERING MENTAL HEALTH: AN INTRODUCTION 6 ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: THE ART OF RECOVERY 8 LGBTQ+ MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS: ENVISIONING A BETTER COLORADO 10 LEAN ON LESLIE: PROTECTING QUEER PEOPLE WITH POLICY 12 ATTORNEY GENERAL OF COLORADO PHIL WEISER AND COLORADO’S DIRECTOR OF OPIOID RESPONSE HEIDI WILLIAMS: FIGHTING FIRE WITH POWER 14 MICHELLE BARNES: EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES AND EBOLA VIRUS SURVIVOR 16 PROFILES IN RECOVERY 20 WEATHERING THE STORM: COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS STEP UP DURING COVID-19 22 VIRTUAL ROUNDTABLE: HOW WE CAN HELP IN TIMES OF CRISIS 24 LGBTQ+ COMMUNITY’S WELL-BEING IMPACTED GREATER THAN GENERAL POPULATION 26 MAKING BEHAVIORAL HEALTH YOUR NUMBER-ONE PRIORITY: AURORA MENTAL HEALTH IS HERE TO HELP 30 MENTAL HEALTH DIRECTORY
JERRY CUNNINGHAM AND STEVEN HADEN Publishers ADDISON HERRON-WHEELER Editor VERONICA L. HOLYFIELD Creative Director
GRAPHIC DESIGNER Design2Pro COVER DESIGN Veronica L. Holyfield COVER ART Rand Snell
MARKETING + SALES
All sales coordinated by the OUT FRONT sales staff and Envision:You staff COPY EDITOR Keegan Williams CONTRIBUTING WITERS Keegan Williams, Judy Wolf, Lauren Archuletta
2 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
anxious, sad, exhausted, drinking too much, angry, using, lost, moody, numb, going through the motions, struggling, hopeless, alone, addicted
ARE YOU REALLY? You’re not alone. Well-being is possible when you have the right tools and support. We’re changing people’s lives every day with inpatient and outpatient programming and 24/7 crisis care.
720.643.4300 8835 American Way | Englewood, CO 80112
D ENVER S PR I NG S .COM
Health: An Introduction
am a suicide survivor. I share this with you, as every word that follows is a gift. I am grateful to be alive and that I can share my story with you. Today I live a full, joyous, and healthy life free of debilitating depression, thoughts of suicide, or a chronic substance use disorder; I know that others are not so lucky. Recent reports indicate nearly 50,000 people die by suicide in America each year. If that number sounds striking, consider this: For every suicide death, there are 30 suicide attempts. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) individuals face an extraordinarily elevated risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. LGBTQ+ adults have a two-fold excess risk of suicide attempts compared to other adults; among transgender adults, the lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts is 40 percent, and nearly two million queer youth ages 13 to 24 consider suicide each year. While mental illness affects all communities, LGBTQ+ and other sexual minority and gender-diverse populations face unique challenges compared to their non-LGBTQ+ counterparts. LGBTQ+ individuals are three times as likely to experience a mental health disorder in comparison to individuals who identify as straight. Approximately 40 percent of LGBTQ+ adults had a mental illness in the past year, in comparison to the 18 percent of the total adult population who faced a mental illness in the past year. LGBTQ+ individuals also are more likely to abuse substances at an estimated percentage of 25 percent due to factors such as prejudice and discrimination, in comparison to the 9 percent substance abuse of the general population. Most LGBTQ+ individuals are incredibly resilient and thrive in the face of adversity with the help of supportive families, communities, and peers. However, the community is at particular risk for experiencing shame, racism, fear, discrimination, and adverse and traumatic events, and that increased risk is correlated with interpersonal, institutional, and structural discrimination. 4 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
The stigma surrounding mental health in the LGBTQ+ community leaves millions struggling with the impact of intolerance and suffering in silence. It is imperative we acknowledge the prevalence of mental illness and substance use disorders among LGBTQ+ people and find hope and healing through clinicians and communities while continuing to break down the oppressive practices that contribute to psychiatric distress. If left untreated, mental disorders can impede all aspects of health including emotional well-being and social development, leaving people feeling socially isolated, stigmatized, and unable to optimize their social, vocational, and interpersonal contributions to society. To address these concerns, Jerry Cunningham and I founded Envision:You in 2018. Envision:You is a statewide, multi-year initiative that addresses the disproportionate impact mental health and substance use disorders have on Coloradoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s LGBTQ+ community. To advance this mission, I have the pleasure of working with a team of individuals committed to improving the well-being and welfare of LGBTQ+ folks including Nancy Lorenzon, Darcey Cunningham, Claire Abate, Hayden Evans, Maggie Phillips, and Michelle Williams-Garcia. In addition to my rewarding work with Envision:You, I have the pleasure of working for the Mental Health Center of Denver, an organization committed to improving the well-being of all the people we serve. Finally, I am thankful to the OUT FRONT Magazine staff for their collaboration on this publication. Without their dedication and passion for increasing attention to these important issues, what you will read and see in the following pages would not be possible. It is my wish after reading this issue that you will find hope and inspiration to lead you to better mental health. Warmly, Steven Haden Co-founder, Envision:You
Constellation We are all of us stars, and we deserve to twinkle.
— Marilyn Monroe
Highlands Behavioral Health offers a way to access mental health support within a queer inclusive facility offering inpatient and outpatient treatment options. Constellation, LBGTQ+ specific programming offered at Highlands, hopes to honor each individual’s uniqueness and set them on their path to wellness.
DID YOU KNOW? • LGBTQ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse compared with heterosexual individuals. • The rate of suicide attempts is four times greater for lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and two times greater for questioning youth than that of heterosexual youth.
For more details visit www.highlandsbhs.com Schedule a FREE confidential assessment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (720) 348-2805 envision-you.org
The Art of Recovery Artist Spotlight
Art and story by Rand Snell
6 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
came to substance abuse relatively late, although I now understand I had addictive patterns of behavior my whole life. As a young victim of emotional and sexual trauma, I developed coping mechanisms that allowed me to survive childhood, but they later kept me from having fulfilling, intimate relationships as an adult. I seemed successful; like many addicts, I was a perfectionist and overachiever. I became a pilot, earned several degrees, had a successful career in public policy and politics, and even ran for Congress. Later, I developed a new career writing music for choirs. But then, I moved from Washington, D.C. back to Florida, where I grew up an only child to take care of aging parents and a multigenerational, family business. I also went back to school and had just finished a degree in music composition when I was introduced to crystal meth during a sexual encounter. I was 54 years old. That was the spring of 2010. I wrote almost no music after that; creativity seemed to be blocked. Although I never became a regular drug user, I struggled with episodic or binge use coupled with sex. I became HIV-positive, developed other physical problems, was forced to give up flying, had several rounds of treatment, and underwent countless hours of therapy. In the spring of 2019, I surrendered completely to a process of recovery, entered my last treatment program, and have been sober since. In the absence of music composition, I found some continued, creative expression in playing piano and in writing about my experiences. But, in 2015, I discovered art therapy. Doing art, I realized the extent of childhood sexual abuse I had long minimized and suppressed. I picked up art again in the summer of 2019 as part of treatment. I did a couple of pieces quickly, but there seemed more to say, as I sensed visual art had the capacity to express and integrate, in a nonverbal way, my new emotional insights.
I took those two projects and transformed them: a collage went through two more evolutions before I considered it done. Another exercise I tore up; after arranging the pieces in a threedimensional collage, I took a picture with my phone. This opened the door on a whole new area of creativity that harkened back to early childhood drawings long forgotten. For many months, I drew or created collages almost every day. Even now, I find no week goes by without some form of visual expression. In the beginning, I deliberately did not write about my experiences because I had long depended too much on my left-brain strengths of language and linear narration. Shutting that down temporarily seemed to allow, perhaps even to force, a deeper process of healing integration through daily meditation and art. I can now write and speak more of these experiences. I am grateful for the treatment and counseling that gave me a very good understanding of why I was vulnerable to chemical addiction and how that fused with underlying intimacy disorders. I am also grateful that Buddhist and 12-step programs allow me to step out of those old patterns of behavior and into a new life of recovery. This piece, the steps, represents both the methodical process and the intense, inner transformation I have seen in my own life and in that of others. This process has taken away the power of old abusers and allowed me to act, not react, to live as I choose, not as I was compelled. Recovery is letting go of things that donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t serve me and embracing a higher self I never knew I had. I hope all who suffer the trap of addictive behaviors and substances will find that freedom. It is there. Rand
LGBTQ+ MENTAL HEALTH NEEDS
Envisioning a Better Colorado by Judy Wolf
Mental health is a growing concern, with three times as many LGTBQ+ Coloradoans reporting poor mental health as non-LGBTQ+ Coloradoans.
teven Haden, a service provider with the Mental Health Center of Denver, works directly with several LGBTQ+ individuals, many of whom are young, nonbinary, and trans. Haden is gay and has his own story of survival following an attempted suicide and recovery from a substance use disorder, which helped lead him to this field. “Out of that, I was able to start thinking, ‘How can I use this really dark period of my life and the challenges that I experienced and turn that into supporting other people who’ve been in places where I’ve been?’” It was during a brief encounter with Jerry Cunningham, the publisher of OUT FRONT Magazine, in December 2017, that the conversation about Envision:You began. “We considered the work each of us were doing, our positions of privilege, and our commitment to promoting the well-being of the LGBTQ+ community, and decided to act.” Cunningham said, “I have experienced so many people in my life that have been impacted by poor mental health. I watch the suffering and listen to painful stories from people in our community. It was important for me as a gay person, as a business owner, and a lifelong resident of Colorado, to take action.” He added, “I’ve never been more energized and committed to a cause as I am now with Envision:You.” Passionately committed to addressing the distressing mental health outcomes so many queer people encounter, Haden and Cunningham co-founded Envision:You. Starting in the middle of 2018, they held a series of town halls to gather input from community leaders, clinicians, individuals with lived experience, and others committed to the welfare of Colorado’s LGBTQ+ community. In total, the Envision:You team sat down with more than 300 community stakeholders to come up with areas of focus that would support the recovery of LGBTQ+ 8 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
individuals experiencing a mental health or substance use disorder. “There are so many individuals and organizations devoted to this work in our state, and we continue to look for ways to support and expand these efforts by establishing collaborative partnerships,” Cunningham said. Haden added, “Experts in the behavioral health field too often fail to recognize the impact mental illness can have on the LGBTQ+ community—or the impact that being LGBTQ+ has on one’s mental health. This is one of the many reasons Jerry and I founded Envision:You.” From those meetings, Envision:You established four areas of focus: educating the LGBTQ+ community and increasing awareness of the prevalence of mental health and substance misuse concerns and their deleterious effect on the community. Another important effort is advocating on behalf of the community to ensure policies and programs consider the unique life experience of queer folks. Envision:You are also working to ensure culturally relevant resources are available to the community while encouraging individuals to ask for support when in need. The lack of affirming care is a significant barrier to quality, behavioral health interventions, so Haden and Cunningham are developing a comprehensive training program for providers to gain the skills they need to deliver meaningful and supportive care. “When we walk into a provider’s office, we want that to be an affirming experience. We are looking at the best models of care, talking to members of the community along with clinicians to develop a training process that will lead to an enhanced, therapeutic experience for queer individuals based on evidence and best practices.” Claire Abate, program manager at Envision:You, experienced the stigma LGBTQ+ people often fight while in the healthcare system firsthand. “I’ve been to those doctors’ appointments; I’ve had a therapist talk to me about how, if I weren’t gay, I probably wouldn’t have this problem.” Through her own personal traumas and her experience around them, she added, “It’s just that lack of
knowledge.” Abate now faces a whole new world of mental health issues by dealing with stigmas as a gay parent. Dr. Nancy Lorenzon, a University of Denver biological sciences professor and director of research and evaluation for Envision:You, mentioned the 2018 Colorado Health Access Survey and what the data reveals about the mental health of Colorado’s LGBTQ+ community. “While there have been significant changes regarding legal recognition and protections of LGBTQ+ folks, large challenges remain, particularly in mental health. We know that LGBTQ+ Coloradans report much higher rates of poor mental health than their straight counterparts and are less likely to access the mental health care they need.”
Fifty-eight percent of LGTBQ+ Coloradans worried they might lose their home due to an inability to pay monthly rent or mortgages in the next year. The pandemic we are all experiencing further compounds these concerns. “The financial impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ folks will be devastating, especially for the transgender community—a group that is historically underemployed or unemployed due to outright discrimination. “For those that were working before the pandemic, many have lost their job,” she added. “I think that this is an extremely hard time for all marginalized communities financially, compounded by the loss of community. These are potent forces that will hinder good mental health.” Lorenzon shared the stats from a 2015 National Center on Transgender Equality study that found transgender or gender-nonconforming folks twice as likely to be living in poverty, and people of color in this group are affected even more adversly. “So, we know the trans community is disproportionately impacted. It’s really distressing that those are the circumstances.”
health services in the prior 12 months, a spike of 278,000 people from the same point two years ago. As part of the organization’s commitment to raising awareness about these important issues, Envision:You, the University of Denver, and the Mental Health Center of Denver came together last year to present the first--annual Colorado Behavioral Health & Wellness Summit held in October on the DU campus. According to Lorenzon, “Each of these organizations share a collective commitment to encourage neighbors, friends, family, and colleagues from around Colorado to learn more about behavioral health issues and treatment.” She added, “We believe this is helpful in changing language and beliefs about mental health issues, in developing mental healthcare policies that are fair and just, and in promoting a system in which better, more compassionate outcomes are the norm.” According to Haden, “The Summit is a great opportunity for us to talk about effective intervention strategies, including harm reduction, to look at opportunities to improve the delivery of behavioral health services in Colorado and demystify rehabilitation and treatment. Additionally, we hope the Summit provides an opportunity for providers, people with lived experience, policymakers, and members of the community to talk to one another about the need for change. Too many people in our state are not receiving care, and the Summit can underscore the importance of working together to find solutions.” The second-annual conference will be held November 9 and run through November 12, 2020. Participants will be able to discover new tools and resources, discuss practical strategies for change, and connect with colleagues and experts. The Summit is free and open to the public. To learn more, you can visit cbhws.org.
Haden added, “Many LGBTQ+ people are employed in sectors that are heavily impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. LGBTQ+ people also face significant, economic disparities compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers, which means they may lack the resources to stay afloat during this public health emergency.”
Moving forward, the team is looking forward to further developing Envision:You to best serve the LGBTQ+ community. “As the organization expands its reach and programming, our team is working every day to ensure our community doesn’t lose another person to suicide or overdose,” Haden said. “Ensuring the resources and support are available for the community is essential.”
According to the most recent Colorado Health Access Survey by the Colorado Health Institute, approximately 20 percent of Colorado’s population has a diagnosable behavioral health condition. Sadly, nearly one in seven Coloradans—about 660,000 people—said they did not get needed mental
To learn more about Envision:You, visit envision-you.org. If you or someone you know is experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis, please contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 844-493-8255, or text TALK to 38255. For young, queer people, support is available from The Trevor project at thetrevorproject.org. envision-you.org
Lean on Leslie:
Protecting Queer People with Policy by Judy Wolf
What do LGBTQ+ youth need now more than ever? They just need to be seen and heard as they are.
Photo provided by Leslie Herod
nvision:You will recognize Colorado State Representative Leslie Herod (D-Denver) with their first Lean On Me award scheduled to be presented at their Annual Garden Party on August 1. Each year, Envision:You selects an individual and organization for their work as a demonstrated ally to the LGBTQ+ community and their mental health and wellbeing. Envision:You co-founder Jerry Cunningham spoke of Representative Herod
1 0 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
fondly: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Leslie is a forceful advocate and champion for the community, especially as it relates to behavioral health concerns. She is persistent in her work to increase access to care for everyone, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.â&#x20AC;? Since her election in 2016 as the first LGBTQ+ African-American in the Colorado General Assembly, she has passed 52 bills addressing important issues including criminal justice reform,
mental health, addiction, youth homelessness, education, and civil rights protections. Herod is also dedicated to improving the quality of care for underserved communities, particularly those in the public health system or with serious and persistent behavioral health concerns.. Herod stated that it is an honor to be receiving this award from Envision:You. She added that she has supported Envision:You from their launch in 2018. “I’m happy to have been involved in helping to build the road map.” She also explained her experience as being a fly on the wall. “There were a lot of experts in the room doing the work, some of whom have worked for decades in mental healthcare.” She recognizes the various opportunities for Envision:You to collaborate with partners, including Caring for Denver. Herod championed the successful 2018 ballot initiative and now sits on its board of directors. “We hope to clear out some of those gaps that exist for LGBTQ+ people and mental health care.” November 6, 2018 was the launch of the Caring4Denver Foundation. This foundation makes funding possible through Denver’s sales tax. For every $100 spent in Denver, 25 cents goes toward addressing the mental health and substance misuse needs in our city. This amount raises nearly $30 million every year. Regarding the significant change these funds can address in relation to behavioral health needs, Herod said, “We are now the second-largest foundation in the state of Colorado. As far as how things have changed through the COVID-19 response, we put out funding for nonprofits who are working in health and substance abuse who needed emergency funding. We have been working very closely to figure out who gets funding and how we can quickly move that resource into the community as the need is so great. As far as reaching out during the pandemic and beyond, Herod named Denver’s best resources which have persisted through COVID-19. “We wanted to make sure that people have access to them; Delores House, Mental Health Center of Denver, and others are doing really great work right now, obviously remotely. People have different needs because of COVID-19, and we are doing our best to be responsive to that.”
Herod is known to get out there and speak directly to LGBTQ+ youth and often tells her own story as an LGBTQ+ person of color, sharing her own vulnerabilities. She told me what she thinks LGBTQ+ youths’ most vulnerable issues are. “I think it’s really along the lines of coming out or questioning their sexual orientation, but adding that on top of all the normal things that any youth is facing, that just compounds it. I think, for LGBTQ+ people specifically, it’s about finding your place and being able to be authentic with who you are in your story, and then navigating all the land mines that come along with that.“ Now, more than ever, she feels what LGBTQ+ youth needs is, “...to be seen and heard. I think with the social distancing happening right now, people are stuck at home and on computers, and what’s really important is that we see LGBTQ+ youth as they are and celebrate them.” Herod recognizes that the older, LGBTQ+ population has different needs in relation to those of queer youth, adding, “The older, LGBTQ+ population are dfferent in their growth. Older, LGBTQ+ folks have grown up from being teenagers, and some are more comfortable in themselves. Other issues in the community, like substance abuse challenges and healthcare, still have stigma and shame.” Another issue with the older, LGBTQ+ population, she noted, is, “The additional burden of having traumatic experience around whether it’s about coming out or being closeted for a long period of your life; those are things that are still there and things that need to be dealt with.” To bring attention to the isolation one can feel, Herod thinks that more acute feelings can bring up tough memories and tough times. “We have to remember that a lot of the older, LGBTQ+ people have lived through the AIDS epidemic and watched so many people die. Right now, there are a lot of similarities being drawn between COVID-19 and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and although we haven’t seen that level yet in Colorado, my fear is that we will. And, so while we can look to our seniors for support, we’ve got to ensure that we are supporting them.” To learn more about the Caring for Denver initiative, visit caring4denver.org.
// 1 1
Attorney General of Colorado Phil Weiser and Colorado’s Director of Opioid Response Heidi Williams
Fighting Fire by Judy Wolf
Photo provided by Phil Weiser
A large survey of transgender Americans found that 35 percent of those who experienced school-related harassment or assault reported using substances to deal with the mistreatment.”
have been very much focused on this, really since the beginning of my taking office, and that’s why we created this position of opioid response.” Attorney General Phil Weiser announced in January of 2020 that Thornton’s ex-mayor Heidi Williams would become the chief of opioid response for Colorado. “We have a range of tools that we are looking at. The first three are education and prevention, treatment efforts, and then ongoing recovery.” He and Williams, along with other stakeholders and state agencies in Colorado, are very much trying to work toward a broader behavioral health agenda. According to the CDC, more than 130 Americans die from opioid overdose each day, and those who belong to a sexual minority are more than twice as likely to abuse drugs compared to their heterosexual peers. LGBTQ+ individuals disproportionately face a number of challenges compared to their heterosexual peers. These challenges include: emotional abuse, bullying, hate crimes, rejection from family, and self-hatred. Transgender youth need the most help. They often have to deal with compounding
1 2 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
stigmas when searching for treatment as well as feeling safe. Weiser said, “The stigma issues are important, and we need everyone to be a part of this solution. It’s OK to admit you are struggling. Transgender youth are at risk; they have high rates of suicide and high rates of substance abuse, so if we can get support, we can get people on a path that supports recovery.” The money to help fund transgender youth programs may come from a lawsuit—Weiser added Colorado onto the Purdue Pharma Lawsuit and added an amendment. “I looked at this issue when I was first running for office and saw these lawsuits, and I was really concerned about the behavior of these companies.” In September of 2018, Colorado sued Perdue Pharma as a company. A year ago, Wieser added the Sackler family, the people behind the company, individually. “This is a privately held company; they are the worst of the worst.” Weiser explained that the Sackler family pushed to get these
drugs out there, encouraged doctors who were sanctioned for their practices and pushed them even harder. “We are now suing in bankruptcy court against the Sacklers; they are presently trying to work out a deal where they are not having to pay their fair share, and we want to get a fair share paid.” Weiser added that this settlement will help get funding for education prevention and treatment and recovery. Distributors named in the lawsuit are Cardinal Health, McKesson, Amerisource, and Johnson and Johnson. So, what will be done in Colorado to keep these companies from distributing?
surgery or older HIV patients, they are at a higher risk of prescription drug abuse.” Williams knows the stats. In 2015, one in 10 adults over the age of 18 who misused prescription opioids (such as hydrocodone or oxycodone) identified as LGBTQ+, and they were three times more likely to develop an addiction than heterosexual adults. Substance use disorders affect approximately 25 percent of the LGBTQ+ population compared to 8.4 percent of the general population, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
As part of the pharmacutical industry’s commitment “We are talking about a settlement that would include to addressing these concerns, the Rx Abuse Leadership very restrictive terms and conditions, one that would Initiative (RALI) has worked closely with Envision:You. not allow loopholes and not allow distribution.” He described the horror stories that come from southern “RALI appreciates the work Attorney General Phil Weiser and his staff have done Colorado when it comes to high on supporting mental health Oxycontin prescription rates. services, especially in Colorado’s He is looking to make sure any “Taken together, these clinical LGBTQ+ community. We’re all settlement will have the right situations suggest that certain facing enormous stress due to restrictive terms. “They recognize subpopulations of the LGBTQ the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s they are liable, and we are going community are at increased an especially difficult time for to push for injunctive relief as well risk of developing opioid use those with economic or personal as monetary damages.” disorder and signal the need challenges. Thanks to Attorney for special care in prescribing In came the czar of Colorado’s General Weiser and Heidi opioids in these and other opioid response, Heidi Williams. Williams for the real dedication “She is positioned to build those LGBTQ populations.” and passion they bring to caring relationships at the local and for the mental health of our state. “ National LGBT Center for regional level and also helps to Health Education “Best practice from here on out is build an understanding of what that we learn from one another. these practices are,” Weiser said. There is a statewide response to the Williams makes it a point to distribution of Narcan. All first responders have Narcan. visit communities in these rural and frontier areas in We want treatment and recovery available across the Colorado towns and realizes that the LGBTQ+ population state; we want regional coordination lawsuits.” Williams is a distinct community to manage. knows the numbers of drug use and deaths are so hard to She also said that telehealth is something they are looking find within the transgender communithy, mostly because at given the current climate. There has been a reduction the stigma in place prevents these LGBTQ+ folks from in services, and there is a relaxation on methadone, asking for extra help and because of misgendering after with people unable to go to their clinics as often. “This death. is where telehealth is going to become a very robust “Stigma issue is a big part of this. We need everyone method.” to be a part of this solution. It’s OK to admit you are Williams is passionate about her work, and it hits home struggling. Younger-aged trans youth are really at risk; on a personal level, too—she shared that her daughter they have a higher risk of suicide and substance abuse, came out two years ago. “We need to reduce the stigma so and if people can get behind this, with effort, we can that we don’t have one in four of our LGBTQ+ community provide peer support and counselor; we can get people with substance use disorder. That is staggering.” on a path.” “We know that at least 80 to 85 percent who end up To find support in Colorado, please visit using heroin started with prescription opioids. For cowellnessrecovery.org folks starting out because they had gender affirmation envision-you.org
// 1 3
Michelle Barnes Executive Director of Colorado Department of Human Services and Fierce Advocate for the LGBTQ+ Community by Judy Wolf
y experience with Marburg has been on my mind a lot during this COVID-19 situation. Known as Ebola’s evil twin, it shows up in the same way as Ebola, the same symptoms, same effects.” After her experience with Marburg virus, Barnes has insight around LGBTQ+ people who might be suffering through the coronavirus right now, as so many of us are also already experiencing the ills of isolation. She recalled firsthand the mental game and the guilt she battled. “Both after I got the virus and was in the depths of it, and while I was recovering, it was as painful as I could possibly imagine it being. It was a game of, ‘Why me? Why did I get this?’” Which left her, she said, wondering things like, ‘Did I not wash my hands enough? Did I make a mistake?’ She continued with the feeling of stigma she experienced when 1 4 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
Photo provided by Michelle Barnes
someone “finds out” you have a virus; they don’t want to be around you, or they are scared and they blame you for having a disease you just got, that you didn’t search for. She relates this stigma to any marginalized group who feels stigma throughout this COVID-19 experience and how difficult it must be to deal with the feelings of stigma as it relates to being queer. In his state address January 9, Governor Jared Polis spoke on the much-needed reform of mental and behavioral health in Colorado. I asked Barnes about that and how it relates even moreso now to COVID-19 and specifically for LGBTQ+ communities. “We are very concerned about the LGBTQ+ population with the virus. There are even more challenges to getting access to mental health and substance abuse services, as this community is always in need of mental health services at a higher rate than average population.” She explained the main focus right now stands with the creation of Colorado’s Behavioral Task Force. “This task force is compiled of approximately 100 members throughout the state, representing all different stakeholder groups, who are looking at not the 300 things we can do, but at the few things we could do that would dramatically change
access and affordability to mental health services for all Coloradans right now.” That is no small feat. Barnes explained a new and rising need for telehealth and how that could be one of the tactics that will make a big difference to getting service to all populations in Colorado. “One of the things we have found is the huge barrier to receiving help is the stigma.” This is especially clear for the LGBTQ+ community. Barnes stated that people don’t want to be labeled with the mental health condition or substance abuse condition, so therein lies a huge barrier for all. Polis, the Department of Health, and Michelle Barnes in particular have deep concerns about LGBTQ+ high school students, who are five times more likley than their hetero peers to attempt suicide. “That is a frightening number,” she added, “a number that we should all be familiar with and help lower.” Launched a few months ago, the See Me Campaignhopes to battle the stigma so many suffer. “We are doing this #SeeMeColorado campaign to raise awareness for people who are finding stigma a barrier when trying to get into service.” In regards to harm-reduction services, their focus is in the more remote areas of Colorado. Barnes is
very excited to announce the disbursement of three mobile units throughout North and Southeastern Colorado and the San Luis Valley. “There are so many misconceptions about mental health, and the comorbidity of mental health and substance abuse, which leaves a lot of education that needs to be done.” The Department of Public Health has also invested in getting Naloxone and Naloxone kits distrubted as part of their plan to combat addiction. “The department has been very aggressive in getting those kits out.” She recommends the mobile app OPI RESCUE for those in need. Using this app will tell you the location of a pharmacy or a prescriber that can help you find Naloxone or Narcan. Most important are the more rural communities where folks don’t have access to this help.But in these communities, people are often reluctant to seek help. “They are white trucks with no markings, so they don’t say, ‘I have a problem; I’m coming here to get help.’” These mobile units will be equipped for medically assisted treatment actions and Naloxone syringe disposal as well as providing needs for mental health. Barnes added, “We are hoping to have those in much broader areas in
Colorado, but for right now, we are starting with three. We are feeling really good about the results so far.” The San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group website notes, “Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health received federal grants from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to help increase access to treatment for opioid use disorder. OBH partnered with Managed Service Organizations (MSO) Signal Behavioral Health Network and West Slope Casa to manage the mobile health unit project regionally and work closely with the providers who will own and operate each unit.” So, how will these mobile units help the LGBTQ+ stigma in regards to finding help? “The stigma we are hearing a lot about is such that, if you are lesbian in a rural community, sometimes you don’t really want to come out in that community. So, now you have ‘I need to come out AND ask for help,’” which is the problem Barnes is hoping these mobile units solve: more anonymity and safety for the queer community. To join in the fight, visit seemecolorado.com. To learn more about the OPI RESCUE app, visit opirescue.com/ about.
Creative in-home and community support with recovery from mental health challenges.
303-786-9314 EXT 125 www.windhorsecommunityservices.com envision-you.org
// 1 5
Profiles in Recovery
by Keegan Williams
eslie was a chubby kid, and the summer before eighth grade, she lost 30 pounds. Returning to school, her grades and social life were never better, but a switch in her head turned, telling her she must be thin to survive and thrive in life. As a young adult, after long work days and harder workouts, she and her peers would end the days with drinks, and Leslie would typically default to a light meal to accompany her booze and full day of exercise. Her next job in the beer industry moved her to Colorado. “I was so identified with my weight being thin, and then, of course, the culture was going out, having some beers. My life and my community was about beer, wine, and alcohol.” Over time, Leslie’s peers began to show concern over her weight. She eventually sought therapy, but she said her drinking in relation to her eating disorder was often ignored. She was eventually introduced to the 12 steps and quit drinking for two years, “not because I thought I was an alcoholic, but because, that’s what you do in treatment.” Working with a sponsor, she gained a lot more self-esteem and realized she was a lesbian. She eventually started drinking again, but she was also participating in advocacy work and embracing her identity. “But there’s also a lot of drinking, right? You have the meeting, and then you have the ‘meeting’ after the meeting.” She soon started attending LGBTQ+ 12-step meetings, and her last drink was in July 2006. Leslie is grateful for how far she’s come and urged queer folks in recovery, and the community in general, to listen to their LGBTQ+ elders. “In my experience, an eating disorder doesn’t ever go away. It’s always present. When I tell my story in the rooms, in AA, I start by recognizing my eating disorder because I can’t tell my story without it.”
1 6 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
’m from an Irish Catholic family— we were drinking from birth, basically.”
Martin always thought that he had a drinking problem but convinced himself it was never actually a problem. He’d tried to quit a few times on his own with no luck. Finally, in January 2014, he decided it was time to stop drinking for good. He approached quitting drinking in the same way he quit smoking cigarettes, thinking at the time that after three days, the addiction would begin to slip. Four days into sobriety, experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms, he learned this wasn’t the case. “I had a clarifying moment, where I basically decided I wanted to live. I went another three days, and on that seventh day, I called my friend, and she was in the program of AA, and she said to me, ‘OK. Get dressed and go to a meeting.’ And I did.” He’s been involved in AA ever since, and he said specifically attending LGBTQ+ meetings changed his whole recovery. “It’s an added level of comfort,” he said. “Being able to be completely comfortable with my sexuality just made a huge difference to me.” Martin said that, while the initial work has been done, it’s now important to show up for his recovery in a different way, in a more reflective, long-term lens than before. “I had to actually look at the reasons I wanted to live. I feel like, the gay community, gay meetings, there’s something so comforting about just being able to be with fellow queers. It’s coming home.” envision-you.org
// 1 7
ane’s road to recovery was admittedly a rocky one. As a teen, they typically used any substances they were able to get their hands on, and navigating this didn’t get easier.
and stimulants for more than one. Dane emphasized that recovery and wellness do not look any one way, and a crucial element for them was moving away from where they used.
After leaving home to attend school, Dane’s boyfriend at the time committed suicide, a moment Dane said was essential to their recovery. Following periods of heavy drinking and stimulant use, Dane found a 12-step program, but their recovery wasn’t quite that cut-and-dry.
“And, of course, I’m transgender as heck. I started heavily using substances around when I first started seriously hitting puberty, and that was to alleviate the distress caused then.”
“It took me some time to kind of find my way.” They have been sober from alcohol for more than two years
1 8 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
Looking back, Dane said it’s unfortunate that so many of their formative experiences with other queer kids and young adults revolved around substance use. They admit they have some regrets and try to channel that back into the
community through advocacy work. Dane stops by meetings every once in a while, but they often caught flack in rural Texas as a gender-nonconforming person trying to become “part of the boys’ club.” They said their experience with meetings in Colorado has been better overall, but hopes these spaces, even the LBGTQ meetings, push to be more inclusive for everyone in the community. “These are structural patterns and problems. There are risk factors that queer youth face, that we can address. These are all things we can change, and I find that really empowering.”
abrielle’s queer identity is a big part of her recovery story. She began to recognize her queerness at a young age, and during that same time, she also lost her uncle, with whom she was very close.
“My drinking all just kind of progressed through school and college. I don’t really talk about those years anymore; I feel like that’s all we hear about, those years we used.” At age 21, during a trip abroad, she decided she was going to come back to the U.S. and come out. She admitted she wasn’t ready, and her parents responded negatively. Her alcoholism progressed further, and she got to a point when she stopped and said, “Well, my biggest secret is out, and I don’t know why I keep needing alcohol.” She went to her first meeting soon after in March 2012 and didn’t look back. “I started drinking at the age of 12, and I was 22 when I got sober, so the most formative years of my life, I kind of missed out on. Learning how to function, how to deal with emotions, and how to regulate those.” As her sobriety has matured, she has worked to build communities around her of like-minded people. “I kind of see it as an act of resistance. I don’t really need it anymore. In my queer identity, I want to experience it all because I had so many years of knowing that that was who I am, but unable to experience any of it.” Gabrielle said as a queer, sober person, she is frustrated that the LGBTQ+ community is so often targeted with alcohol and drug use. Where many folks will use alcohol as a reason to explore their identities, Gabrielle saw alcohol interfering with her embracing her queerness. “I’m a huge harm-reduction-focused person. I get it if people still want to drink, but I would really love to help my communities heal so that if they still feel the need, after they’ve healed, to use substances, then it maybe won’t have to be such an excessive, or harmful, amount.” If you or someone you know is experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis, please contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 844-493-8255 or text TALK to 38255. You can also find recovery resources at cowellnessrecovery.org. Keegan Williams is the copy editor for OUT FRONT Magazine. He is in recovery and will celebrate two years alcohol-free this July. envision-you.org
// 1 9
COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS STEP UP DURING COVID-19 by Lauren Archuletta
he spring of 2020 has been a bit chaotic, to say the least. In these uncertain times of the COVID19 pandemic, mental health professionals in the community continue to show up—perhaps even more so now—to offer their services and remind folks that they are not alone. From switching to telehealth services to increasing staff sizes, Queer Asterisk and Youth Seen are among the mental health providers working around the clock to ensure the mental health needs of LGTBQ+ folks are being met.
2 0 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
Prioritizing the needs of the queer and trans community has been at the forefront of Queer Asterisk’s organization since its founding in 2016. After founder and executive Sorin Thomas had a negative experience with mental health providers following their gender-affirming hormone therapy and top surgery, they began wondering what it would be like for people to have access to mental health in a more affirming way. “It can be such a difficult process to navigate and is especially riddled with professional gatekeeping,” Thomas said. “I wanted the queer and trans community to access services with those who shared similar identities as well.”
Queer Asterisk started with counseling services but quickly evolved to additional programming, including events, community programs, and educational trainings. “We realized pretty quickly that one hour per week of therapy can only go so far without enough support,” they explained, adding that Queer Asterisk provides a contemplative frame to all of their work with an emphasis on mindfulness. “We consider everything therapeutic, even beyond our counseling services. Our community events are not necessarily just about socializing, but they go a little bit deeper than they would in a normal social situation in order to foster and secure deeper connections.” The outbreak of this pandemic has obviously had an impact on Queer Asterisk and the organization’s ability to see clients face to face, but Thomas said the organization has been poised to take on these changes for some time. “We are really fortunate that we had already started telehealth clinical services before COVID-19 due to a few grants we had written,” they said. “We were able to make a very seamless switch to a confidential video service, Simple Practice, which offers telehealth. We haven’t had a big disruption with community events and educational training, either, since they’ve all switched to Zoom.” Since switching entirely to a video-based serviceproviding platform, Thomas said Queer Asterisk has been noticing both pros and cons. “The obvious con is less human contact, which is especially difficult for our clients who were relying on play therapy. One big pro, though, is having folks from all over the country. Some are folks who are part of our network, maybe they moved away, and now they’re able to come back and join the community events. Another benefit Thomas said they have noticed is the increased level of intimacy. “Their whole face is taking up the screen. You’re seeing each other’s faces, looking into each other’s eyes more.” Another community organization not new to the virtual world of clinical services is Youth Seen, an organization working to foster and empower the social and emotional well-being of youth and their families, primarily LGBTQ, Queer, Trans Black, Indigeneous People of Color (QTBIPoC), and Queer and Trans People of Color (QTPOC) communities. The nature of their services is via a peer mentor support network, and Executive Director Dr. Tara Jay said Youth Seen’s approach is about meeting their clients where they are, no matter the situation or geographic location.
“This means it’s not about assessing folks in the sense of what services and what systems we can put them in, but mindful community resources that we can support.” For Youth Seen, this has already looked like telehealth therapy sessions for clients all over the country, as well as gender-affirming support, family counseling and counseling in multiple languages. Currently, Youth Seen are working to help those most impacted by COVID-19 and still seeking services. One example of that is expanding their text line hours to better serve LGBTQ/QTBIPoC/QTPOC youth and college students struggling with anxiety and depression due to COVID19 as a result of social distancing. The Youth Seen team will be staffing the text lines from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and folks can access it by texting 970-462-7498. “We are also taking further steps to support our community around this pandemic,” reads a statement from the Youth Seen team. “Our mental health fund will be expanded to help our community members with food, utilities, and continuing our mental health [services].” The Youth Seen team created a rapid response fund that will allow up for cell phone bill assistance (up to $150 per household), rent payment assistance ($100 per household), and social support/check-ins via text, phone, or video chat. Those in need during this time are encouraged to apply for assistance, though the Youth Seen team is currently only able to support Colorado residents. Mental health organizations are seeing an increase across the board as people struggle with the impacts of COVID-19, but these community providers are weathering the storm and working to provide the best possible services for those seeking help. “We’re noticing an increase in anxiety and depression as well as relationship dynamics that need more support,” Thomas added. “There’s also an increase in addiction because when there’s a pandemic going on, there’s a lot of things you might imagine folks are feeling when they’re isolated at home.” But Thomas wants people to remember one thing: this is a pandemic, and all of these feelings are valid. “All of these feelings are welcome, that fear, that resistance, and any of the feelings you might be feeling have a message. Everyone is absolutely OK the way they are, and we’re here to help.” envision-you.org
// 2 1
VIRTUAL ROUNDTABLE ROUNDTABLE VIRTUAL HOW WE CAN HELP IN TIMES OF CRISIS 2 2 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
by Judy Wolf
e know that COVID-19 has brought unprecedented disruption to our lives, and this is especially true for queer individuals. Underlying mental health concerns are exacerbated by conditions around the virus; support people usually turn to has been physically cut off, and the economic impact on LGBTQ+ individuals—especially people of color, transgender, black, and indigenous folks—has been devastating. Queer families are struggling, like so many, in trying to balance their child’s virtual learning responsibilities now thrust upon them along with all the other demands on our time. Envision:You held a virtual roundtable to address today’s concerns around the community and the virus. Here’s a look at what they discussed. When asked about gay men of privilege dominating political discourse, Denver City Councilperson Candi CdeBaca replied, “The first step is in electing women of color who are part of the LGBTQ+ family. We have to understand that trans women of color who are part of the LGBTQ+ community have the worst rates of experiences. How do we make better policy for everybody? You have people or representation from the most marginalized spaces to lift the from the bottom up.” The consensus was that change needs to come from less discrimination from hiring providers, access to care being less discriminatory, and treating the people with the lowest statistics of care first in order to treat the whole community. Dr. Tara Jae of Youth Seen said it really comes down to representation and “making sure that when we’re
accessing different things or different systems, that we have the ability to pick a provider who actually looks like us. Given that LGBTQ+ youth and adults face an extraordinary elevated risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide completions, mitigating the risk around suicide of young people in general, specifically around queer youth, was a major topic. Rick Padilla, the suicide prevention administrator for the City and County of Denver, had a son who died from suicide in 2019 and offered his perspective on the issue. He feels that one of the biggest issues is tolerance in school and how safe queer kids feel there. The city is past the point of creating programs, and what needs to happen from here on out is actual conversations with the youth. On the opposite end of the spectrum are seniors within the LGBTQ+ community. Leslie Wright, a Kaiser Permanente Health Research project manager with a focus on seniors, said, “Don’t forget about us.” She feels seniors are not always accounted for when it comes to these conversations. A big move toward telehealth and telemedicine is what’s coming up for the future. Vincent Achity of Mental Health Colorado wondered if this might serve the LGBTQ+ community going forward. “When we talked about that elevated vulnerability and risk of suicide that’s particularly elevated in rural and frontier communities, where people are likely to experience such isolation, telehealth may be a pathway to having access to support in times of crisis and a general need for ongoing support.” Everyone spoke on the emotions a queer person encounters when coming out and how to support them during that time. Daniel Ramos of One Colorado thinks the biggest part is making connections in our community and wants to help immigrants and undocumented LGBTQ+ folks, as, “They are having to come out as queer and as undocumented; that is a reason that LGBTQ+ folks in our community should be talking about immigration and immigration rights. It is a shared experience around who is going to accept us, who’s going to reject us, and what our lives will look like after people know because it’s going to affect nearly every aspect of our own lives. “ Wright added, “The generational piece is really important, especially with seniors. We feel less secure and more isolated, and more and more are going back into the closet because they just don’t trust the system out there.” According to Steven Haden of Envision:You, “While coping with these micro- and macro-aggressions, LGBTQ+
individuals must also navigate the added stigma that comes from being diagnosed with mental illnesses—doubling the shame and reducing the likelihood that LGBTQ+ individuals will seek out (or be able to find) an LGBTQ+-affirming therapist or culturally relevant resources.” Dr. Jae stated that, on top of anxiety, she sees many other factors come up in her practice. “I pick up on the resentment that happens, and they think they are coming into a community that is going to be more welcoming, and finding out the community is more discriminatory at how they are showing up, and how they are presenting [is difficult]. We should talk more about that.” It is also extremely important to support POC and youth through education and access, and that they see themselves represented in the healthcare and education system. As far as coming out the other side of COVID-19? Therapist Darcey Cunningham from the Mental Health Center of Denver spoke out on education. “Teaching kids, and teaching boys in general, how to cope with what it feels like to hear ‘no’ is important. What ends up happening is that sense of rejection just fuels all sorts of things and the way that people learn how to cope with that, and that’s when kids end up running into violence when they’re older. Emotional education around consent, and asking people if things are OK, and also what to do if someone says ‘no,’ and how to cope with those feelings.” CdeBaca informed us that, “Our motels are not defining family appropriately, so they’re not letting our LGBTQ+ families go into motels. When you’re trying to build a chosen family, and when you experience the rejection of your blood family and you’re building your own resilience, you have government entities and discriminatory zoning codes trying to disrupt that. We need to focus on some of those things that don’t feel necessarily related to LGBTQ+ issues, but we need them in order to really lift up the most marginalized, LGBTQ+ people.” People need to feel safe before there is any getting back to normal. Haden reminded us, “During this time of unprecedented, global, public health crisis, many people across all communities are feeling the stress of the health threat: concerns about becoming ill, uncertainty about the future, possible financial strain, and dramatic changes in daily routines. That’s why now, more than ever, people should reach out to ask for support.” If you or someone you know is experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis, please contact Colorado Crisis Services by calling 844-493-8255, or text TALK to 38255. envision-you.org
// 2 3
LGBTQ+ Community’s Well-Being
Impacted Greater Than General Population by Mental Health Center of Denver
any things go into a person’s mental health and well-being—social connection, having a safe place to live, practicing effective coping strategies, and more. According to Mental Health America, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ are more than three times as likely to experience a mental health condition than those who identify as straight. This may be because of a lack of support system, traumatic experiences, discrimination, and other factors.
Substance Use Approximately 20 to 30 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals misuse substances compared to 9 percent of the general population according to Mental Health America. The data also shows 25 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals abuse alcohol specifically compared to 5 to 10 percent of the general population.
Homelessness Based on a report from Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, young adults ages 18 to 25 who identified as LGBTQ+ in a 2018 point-intime survey experienced homelessness at more than twice the rate of their peers who are heterosexual and cisgender (a person whose gender matches the sex assigned at birth). According to the report, homelessness is more common in the LGBTQ+ community for the following reasons: 1) Running away from home because of family rejection 2) Being forced out of the home because of family rejection 3) Experiencing physical, emotional, or sexual abuse at home or in school 4) Aging out of the foster care system
Substance use can often coexist with other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
5) Experiencing financial or emotional neglect from family members
“Using substances as ‘self-medicating’ can be a way that some people attempt to mitigate symptoms of depression, anxiety, and/or feelings of loneliness, isolation or rejection,” said Darcey Cunningham, MA, LPC, outpatient psychotherapist at the Mental Health Center of Denver. “A sense of belonging is a natural need for human beings, and this group has historically been denied this by family, peers, religion, society, and the government.”
Urban Peak offers support for Denver youth ages 15 to 24 who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of experiencing homelessness. Visit urbanpeak. org to learn more.
The Colorado Department of Human Services’ Office of Behavioral Health has resources for prevention, treatment, and recovery from substance use and mental health disorders at colorado.gov/ladders. 2 4 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
Suicide Prevention Based on statistics from Mental Health America, LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm compared to youths who are straight. Also, the data shows 65 percent of individuals who identify as transgender experience suicidal ideation.
If you are concerned about someone’s well-being, here are some warning signs to watch for: • • • • • • •
Talking about suicide, death, or preoccupation with dying Trouble eating or sleeping (excessive eating/sleeping or unable to eat/sleep) Significant changes in behavior and/or personality Withdrawing from family and friends Loss of interest in activities, work, school, hobbies, or social interaction Giving away prized possessions Increased drug and/or alcohol use
You can find more warning signs and suicide prevention resources at mhcd.org/suicide-prevention. If someone you know needs help, take action. Your prompt response can save a life. What to Do: •
Take all suicide threats seriously. Listen and express concern in a nonjudgmental way. • Connect the individual with professional help. • Ask questions openly. (“Do you have a plan? Will you talk with someone who can help?”) • Show you care.
What Not to Do: • • • • • • •
Do not keep it a secret. Do not sidestep the issue or treat it lightly. Do not leave the person alone. Do not offer simple solutions. Do not judge. Do not offer or suggest drugs or alcohol. Do not try to be a therapist.
If you or someone you know is in immediate crisis, please call Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493TALK (8255), or text TALK to 38255. Colorado Crisis Services also operates six walk-in crisis centers across metro Denver that are open 24/7 and offer confidential, in-person crisis support. Learn more at coloradocrisisservices.org.
Accessing Mental Health Services As the stress of COVID-19 is impacting our community’s well-being, the Mental Health Center of Denver remains committed to offering mental health services remotely by video and phone. Telehealth is a safe, confidential, and convenient way to get help. Visit mhcd.org/access-services, or call 303-504-7900.
// 2 5
Making Behavioral Health Your Number-One Priority
Aurora Mental Health are Here to Help by Aurora Mental Health
hile there have been increased efforts and conversations to reduce the stigma surrounding behavioral health issues and the prejudice against LGBTQ+ individuals, both still exist. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), if you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and/or questioning (LGBTQ), and live with or briefly experience a behavioral health condition related to your condition, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s important for you to prioritize your behavioral health. Behavioral health in the LGBTQ+ community can be a complex issue, and knowing the facts is the first step to improving your situation. For some people, â&#x20AC;&#x153;coming outâ&#x20AC;? can be a liberating experience, but individuals who face rejection may feel the need to hide their real selves and, in turn, damage their overall behavioral health. Stigma, shame, 2 6 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
and embarrassment may keep someone from finding support. Living with negative emotions can have serious implications both mentally and physically. LGBTQ individuals coping with behavioral health conditions have to deal with the stresses imposed by both the condition and their identity. Not everyone in the LGBTQ community will have the same experiences, but discrimination, prejudice, denial of civil and human rights, harassment, and family rejection are still tragically common for many. Early intervention, having a strong support network, and getting treatment are crucial for anyone living with a mental health condition, and it is especially true for LGBTQ individuals who have to deal with the dual stigmas related to their mental illnesses and sexual orientation and/or gender identities. Aurora Mental Health Center offers behavioral health services, are
here to help you understand what you’re experiencing, and will work with you to develop the best approach to treatment. According to the Mental Health Foundation, there is a disproportionate number of people within the LGBTQ community struggling with their mental health right now including depression, suicidal thoughts, selfharm, and alcohol and substance misuse. Confronting these challenges and mental health symptoms with an LGBTQ-inclusive therapist can lead to better outcomes and even recovery. It’s important to remember that you are not alone. Don’t suffer in silence—if you’re not ready to speak with friends or family, you could seek help from LGBTQ+ support groups or a doctor, where you can share your feelings and receive advice on how to seek further help. Because behavioral health issues are not usually physically identifiable, it’s easy for them to go untreated. But, unfortunately, they don’t simply ‘go away’ over time, and often the longer they persist the harder, they become to treat.
Aurora Mental Health Center offers behavioral health services. We’re here to help you understand what you’re experiencing, and we work with you to develop the best approach to treatment.
For LGBTQ individuals, the way families and social networks accept or deny their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression plays a huge role in their mental health and personal safety. How LGBTQ individuals view their own sexual orientation and gender identity also has an effect. LGBTQ mental health surveys have found that the more stigma there is, the higher rates of mental health problems there are. While more mental health professionals are open toward LGBTQ+ individuals, a lack of adequate training and knowledge about mental health in the LGBTQ+ community can result in mental health disparities and subpar care. It is absolutely critical that mental health professionals have the cultural sensitivity and willingness to address sexuality without letting it cloud their professional diagnosis and treatment of the mental health condition. Finding a mental health professional you trust is step number one. Make sure to assess how comfortable you are with that person. Aurora Mental Health has some good options and are here to help. Call 303.617.230, or visit www.aumhc.org.
It takes courage to grow up to be who you really are, and you don't have to do it alone.
Call us today at 303.617.2300 AUMHC.ORG envision-you.org
// 2 7
No Health Insurance or Health Care? Call STRIDE Today!
Low Cost Medical, Dental & Behavioral Health â&#x20AC;&#x201C; stridechc.org 2 8 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
We donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have big dreams at Tennyson. We have exponential ones. We are a team of trailblazers who consistently forge new ways of innovative thought and action within the complex child welfare industry. We look beyond immediate and temporary solutions and instead look for ways to model lasting change and reformation. We spearhead alliances with government, service providers, and community partners, because we believe effective change is not an individual effort. We are leaders not only in empathy and heart, but in strategy, expertise, and vision. And weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve been leading this charge for more than a century. Learn more at
// 2 9
Mental Health Directory AURORA MENTAL HEALTH CENTER (303) 617-2843 aumhc.org Aurora Mental Health Center (AUMHC), located in Aurora, Colorado, just south of Denver, is a private, nonprofit community mental health organization serving children, adults, and families with a wide range of mental health needs since 1975. Services are provided in counseling centers, residential facilities, sites integrated with primary medical care, in public schools, through county human service departments, in criminal justice settings, in homes and foster homes, and at other community locations. AUMHC responds to emergencies and crises through a walk-in crisis center, a Crisis Stabilization Unit, and mobile crisis response. AUMHC enables people to live life to the fullest. DENVER SPRINGS (720) 643-4300 denversprings.com Denver Springs provides inpatient and outpatient behavioral health and addiction services for adults and adolescents. We provide free level-of-care assessments via walk-in, scheduled appointments or by phone/telehealth 24/7. If you are in need of behavioral health or detox treatment our team of caring professionals is here for you. There’s hope and help at Denver Springs. FLOURISH PSYCHOLOGY (720) 778-4077 flourishpsychology.net Flourish Psychology is an all-encompassing mental health & wellness therapeutic center. Our team is comprised of Licensed Psychotherapists, a psychologist, and a psychiatrist available for diagnostic and medication evaluations/ management, as well as individual, group, and family sessions. We are LGBTQIA+-affirming and support mental health throughout the lifespan. Our specialties include: Perinatal and Postpartum education and therapeutic support, Anxiety and Mood Disorders, Family Conflict, School Avoidance, Behavioral Issues, Life Transitions, Young Adults, Children and Teens, Body Image, Racial, Cultural, and Sexual Identity. Flourish has locations in both Greenwood Village and Glendale. Call for a free consultation. HIGHLANDS BEHAVIORAL HEALTH (720) 348-2800 highlandsbhs.com Highlands Behavioral Health System specializes in providing care for individuals who are experiencing an emotional crisis or are struggling with their mental wellbeing. We are taking our caring and supportive approach further with our queer inclusive program Constellation. It provides guidance in developing coping skills, life balance, and other tools needed for support and healthy living. 3 0 \\ M A Y 6 , 2 0 2 0
Our treatment team is dedicated to helping patients on their path to wellness. This means at Highlands, we understand the unique ethos of the LGBTQ+ community and have tailored our therapy to meet your needs. Call us 24 hours a day: 720-348-2805. JILL ALTIERI, LCSW EVOLVE COUNSELING & WELLNESS, LLC Evolvecounseling.org Supporting the LGBTQIA community is one of my passions. It is my desire to help my clients fully recognize how valuable they are and develop a deep sense of self-acceptance and self-love that allows them to live their lives in healthy and positive ways. I provide individual counseling to assist and support clients in the following areas: Creating and maintaining healthy relationships, decreasing depression and/or anxiety, navigating the coming out process, self-acceptance and self-love, gender identity and expression, and healing wounds inflicted by family, society, or religion. KHESED WELLNESS (720) 575-9889 khesedwellness.com As a queer-founded, mental health nonprofit, we understand the roadblocks to high-quality services for the LGBTQ+ community; that’s why we have free and affordable, virtual mental health therapy services. Contact us, and we will respond within two business days. MAGNOLIA MEDICAL (303) 209-5115 1850 Race St., Denver. magnoliamed.com Magnolia Medical Group are a Denver-based outpatient medication assisted treatment program specializing in treating drug addiction. Our medical group was founded in 2016 by Dr. Pradeep Raj Rai, MD. He leads a team of providers using a judgementfree, integrated, harm-reduction model of care: Buprenorphine and Naltrexone medications used in conjunction with counseling, peer support, and nurse case management—gold standards of treatment, tailored to each patient’s individual needs. Our clinic is open daily, evenings, and Sundays and can often see patients the same day. Private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and self-pay are accepted. MENTAL HEALTH CENTER OF DENVER (303) 504-6500 mhcd.org The Mental Health Center of Denver enhances community well-being through innovative, behavioral health care. PHOENIXRISE (303) 807-3300 phoenix-rise.com
PhoenixRISE is dedicated to serving Denver’s diverse communities with specialty areas in identity development, depression, anxiety, significant life transitions, loss, relational issues, and sport/competition related challenges for adults, adolescents, and children. We believe no “one size fits all” method of therapy or counseling exists or should exist. People are dynamic. We extend a special welcome to those clients struggling with challenges related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, and genderdiverse identities. Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, clinic director Dr. Sarah Burgamy has an extensive understanding of our local Denver community, concerns, politics, and challenges. QUEER ASTERISK (720) 507-6161 queerasterisk.com Queer Asterisk are a Colorado 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provide affirming counseling services; facilitate innovative, educational trainings; and create engaging community programs. We envision a vibrant community that embraces authentic expression and transformation where individuals with dynamic and intersecting identities can thrive. Our counselors are interns, externs, and pre-licensed and licensed mental health professionals who identify as queer and/or transgender. We offer counseling to individuals of all ages and families of all configurations. Our counselors have expertise in anxiety, depression, trauma, addiction, gender identity, sexuality, and more. At this time, counseling sessions take place virtually on a confidential, secure, video platform. We are currently accepting new clients and bill most major insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare. Contact us at queerasterisk.com to find a counselor or peer mentor and join a community gathering. SAFEHOUSE PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE FOR NONVIOLENCE (303) 444-2424 safehousealliance.org SPAN are a human rights organization committed to ending violence against adults, youth, and children through support, advocacy, education, and community organizing. SPAN began providing services in 1979 and are crucial to the network of support that offers critical “safety net” services to survivors of domestic and interpersonal violence. SPAN provide emergency shelter, housing support, legal advocacy, and counseling for survivors. If you or someone you know is being impacted by violence, please call our 24/7 Crisis Line at 303-444-2424 to get connected to our services. We serve all people regardless of gender identity and expression or sexual orientation.
STRIDE COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER (ERIKA OAKVIK) (303) 444-2424 safehousealliance.org (303) 360-6276 stridechc.org STRIDE Community Health Center provides gender affirming and LGBTQ+ medical, dental and behavioral health services including substance abuse treatment, regardless of an individual’s ability to pay. STRIDE has an on-site pharmacy and community-based services, including care management, outreach to the homeless, adolescent services and health education. STRIDE also provides free or low cost confidential medical, dental, behavioral health, and support services for individuals living with HIV/AIDS. STRIDE is a non-profit Community Health Center that has served the Denver metropolitan area since 1989. All are welcome. Learn more at www. stridechc.org/ or call STRIDE today to make an appointment. 303-360-6276 at 303-444-2424 to get connected to our services. We serve all people regardless of gender identity and expression or sexual orientation.
TENNYSON CENTER FOR CHILDREN (720) 855-3314 tennysoncenter.org Tennyson Center for Children have served Colorado’s most neglected, abused, and traumatized children since 1904. We provide a safe, stable home for kids 5-18 facing critical circumstances and need residential care; an accredited, therapeutic K-12 school with a 3:1 student-to-staff ratio on our campus; and in-home and community services in 15 counties to provide preventive services and therapy to strengthen families with children aged 0 to adulthood. In 2019, we began leading a collaborative initiative called Rewiring which seeks to ensure that families remain safely together and reduce the number of children and families involved with the child welfare system. WILD TRANSFORMATIONS THERAPY, LLC (720) 347-5218 wildtransformations.com Wild Transformations Therapy welcomes you to be your wild, brave, authentic self! Specializing in individual and group therapy for the LGBTQ+ community, high-achievers, those questioning problematic substance use, and survivors of spiritual or emotional
trauma, Kellee uses a mind-body-spirit approach toward the aim of full-life healing. Embodying core values of authenticity, social justice, and inclusion, Kellee celebrates with you, helping you relax to connect better with yourself and those who mean the most! If you feel ready enough to brave your next WILD TRANSFORMATION, call for a free consultation today. WINDHORSE COMMUNITY SERVICES (303) 786-9314 Ext.125 windhorsecommunityservices.com Supporting recovery from mental health challenges at home and in the community since 1981. The Windhorse therapeutic approach is based on the understanding that people are intrinsically healthy, and that one’s life is inseparable from their whole-person environment. The primary activity involves creating inclusive, individually tailored, therapeutic living environments for people with a variety of mental health challenges. Within these comprehensively coordinated arrangements, people are able to significantly reduce the chaos and confusion of mental distress and achieve meaningful lives that reflect their completely unique expression of sanity and health.
When things feel uncomfortably WILD, I’m here to help you find inner peace and move through grief in order to remain connected to others to THRIVE. (720)347-5218 www.wildtransformations.com envision-you.org
// 3 1