Mental wellness program for health workers and educators


DENVER– The Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health (OBH) will dedicate more than $920,000 in federal funding to bolster a University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus (CU Anschutz), Department of Psychiatry program that provides free mental wellness support for frontline health care providers and, later this year, educators and school staff. 
Past the Pandemic, part of CU Anschutz’s Extension for Community Health Outcomes (ECHO) program, offers peer-based mental wellness services to help health care workers manage stress, burnout, trauma and other challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Health care workers and physicians from across the state can take a stress management training series, participate in group sessions or talk with a peer through a call and text line. Later this year, Past the Pandemic will roll out programming for educators. Find contact information on the CDHS website. 
“We know that the pandemic has taken a toll on Colorado’s health care community, so it’s vitally important that we provide tailored mental health support,” said Robert Werthwein, director of OBH. “We are proud to fund this innovative program that has successfully helped hundreds of frontline workers strengthen their resilience through this crisis.” 
To support the state’s response to the pandemic, the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration awarded OBH two emergency grants of $2 million and $2.86 million in April 2020 and March 2021, respectively. Drawing from the first grant, OBH initially invested $321,000 in Past the Pandemic and allocated an additional $271,000 from the second grant in FY 2020-21. Later this fiscal year, OBH plans to dedicate another $328,000 of the $2.86 million grant to help CU Anschutz expand programming to educators. 
With the $271,000 boost, CU Anschutz is offering more support for health care workers who could benefit from behavioral health services, including arranging virtual appointments with clinicians and connecting participants to longer-term care. 
“Health care providers have borne the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, and caring for them increases their ability to care for their patients,” said Dr. Steven Berkowitz, a professor with CU Anschutz’s Department of Psychiatry and Pediatrics. “We are thrilled that the joint efforts of the Department of Psychiatry and ECHO Colorado have been so well received.” 
To date, more than 438 health care workers from 35 Colorado counties have participated in Past the Pandemic trainings, which teach symptoms of stress and burnout and ways to prevent stress injury. About 1,000 people have taken part in more than 215 group support sessions, and about 200 frontline workers have contacted the peer support line. 
“The series helped me sit in an uncomfortable place — putting myself first,” said Larissa Applegate, M.D., of Pediatrics West in Wheat Ridge. Applegate completed the Past the Pandemic training. “I recognized that I am able to do my best work by allowing myself to be ‘first’ in line.” 
For more information on Past the Pandemic, visit the ECHO website and the CDHS website.

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