September 30, 2019

Building mental health resources for students and staff

Kaiser Permanente event explores mental health needs and best practices in Colorado schools.

Cory Foreman, vice president of Marketing, Sales, and Business Development for Kaiser Permanente in Colorado discusses the importance of working together to improve mental health for students, teachers, and staff in Colorado.

Mental health is a rapidly growing topic of conversation in Colorado with more than 1 million people — adults and children — living with depression or anxiety in the state. Encouraging strides are being made to break down stigma and provide more access to mental health resources but more can and must be done — especially for youth in Colorado who rank third-highest in the United States for mental health needs.

“Mental health is a national issue and in many ways our schools are on the front line of the growing crisis. We all must come together to look for solutions and opportunities to work collaboratively on supporting and improving mental health for youth in Colorado,” said Sarah Davidon, research director for Mental Health Colorado.

As part of that needed collaboration, Kaiser Permanente and Mental Health Colorado held a 2-day mental health summit in April 2019 at the University of Denver to learn from and help school districts across Colorado develop new approaches to addressing mental health needs in their classrooms.

The event featured mental health experts Don Mordecai, MD, Kaiser Permanente’s national leader for mental health and wellness, and Elizabeth Cook, senior national advisor for social and emotional health for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

Summit participants brainstormed funding opportunities with some of the most influential organizations in Colorado, including the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. Some ideas included adding more on-site mental health staff and implementing new programs using technology and data to support mental health for teachers, staff, and students.

The final day of the summit included powerful conversation on developing systems and structures to foster staff resiliency. Participants talked about how to develop sustainable solutions that enable staff to thrive, not just survive, in stressful situations. This conversation was centered on improving and supporting staff mental health in order to improve student mental health.

“What I’m taking away from this event is the collaborative effort that is needed to help schools achieve better mental health for all their students and staff. We’re all working hard to come up with an answer but we’re doing it, most times, in a confined setting. We need more summits like this,” said summit participant Cory Notestine, director of counseling and wellness for Colorado Springs School District 11. “We need more interaction and sharing of these ideas. It’s for the benefit of our entire community.”