DDPHE launches groundbreaking Behavioral Health Solutions Center

Published on May 13, 2021

The Mental Health Center of Denver, under contract to the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment, will operate the crisis stabilization clinic and temporary housing facility

First responders and mental health organizations have a new referral option in the City and County of Denver created specifically for people experiencing a behavioral health crisis. The Behavioral Health Solutions Center houses Denver’s first multifunctional facility offering a three-tiered approach to help address the well-being of all residents, removing barriers and improving care coordination while promoting equity in the mental health and substance misuse care systems, both critical components of behavioral health.

Operated by the Mental Health Center of Denver (MCHD), under contract to the Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE), the Behavioral Health Solutions Center is located at 2929 West 10th Avenue in Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood. The 28,741-square-foot Solutions Center will provide urgently needed services and options to help people recover from a behavioral health crisis by offering brief inpatient stays on the first floor, transitioning to treatment of up to thirty days on the third floor.

“Denver continues to innovate with behavioral health solutions designed to get people the right care at the right time, care that has become even more urgent since the pandemic,” says Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “One in six people experiences a mental health issue each year in Colorado, and the Solutions Center not only provides them with critical longer-term options for recovery through collaborative, unified services, but also serves to divert those in crisis away from unnecessary time in jail or on a psychiatric hold.”

The Solutions Center is open 24/7 and staffed by 59 clinicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, peer support specialists, residential counselors, and support staff. Designed by Davis Partnership Architects, with construction services provided by Turner Construction, the building includes reception and common areas, laundry rooms, 46 bedrooms, multiple nurse stations, restrooms and showers, private client meeting rooms, medical and mental health exam spaces, a kitchen and dining area, a fitness room, administrative support areas and a 21,500-square-foot, fenced and locked courtyard complete with a basketball court.

The Solutions Center offers three distinct components for those experiencing a behavioral health crisis. They are:

  • Drop-Off & Crisis Triage Center - First responders can bring people experiencing a behavioral health crisis here for immediate care. Only first responders (law enforcement and fire department/EMT units) or designated mental health professionals can refer someone to the Solutions Center. There is no public drop-off or walk up access.
  • 16-bed Crisis Stabilization Clinic – The clinic will accommodate voluntary stays for up to five days for people receiving medication, evaluation, and therapeutic services.
  • 30-bed Transitional Shelter - Transitional housing for up to 30 days for people recovering from a crisis. During this time, staff work to connect individuals to community resources to assist with their successful reintegration into the community, including transportation, housing, and ongoing care.

“Previously, first responders often had to rely on hospital ERs or jails when handling behavioral health calls,” says Bob McDonald, DDPHE’s Executive Director. “Because the aptly named Solutions Center houses a full range of critical services under one roof, it takes the pressure off first responders to try to manage a behavioral health crisis in the field.”

A 2019 survey had shown that more than 94,000 residents, or 12.6% of the city’s population, reported not receiving help or counseling for mental health issues. The City’s response to the alarming insights in the survey was to commission a clear path forward for improving behavioral health outcomes, bringing together resources for all residents, and creating systems and communities where people can be supported in their pursuit of optimal health. In January 2020, the City released Road to Wellness: A Strategic Framework to Improve Behavioral Health in Denver, a direct result of Mayor Hancock’s call to action for a group of experts to be convened to review Denver's behavioral health needs.

The Road to Wellness inspired Empower Denver, a behavioral health plan that builds on Denver’s large existing network of services, systems, and providers to deliver the services needed for comprehensive care. Empower Denver outlines the major objectives that Denver has addressed, including the Wellness Winnie and now the Solutions Center. More recently, the need for these solutions became even more imperative after a recently released Centers for Disease Control study shows that during the pandemic, 37% of Coloradans reported symptoms of an anxiety disorder.

“Stabilization after a behavioral health crisis can take time and coordination of care,” says Marissa VanDover, who oversees the Solutions Center as MHCD’s Associate Director of Crisis Services. “Instead of referrals across the metro area, the Solutions Center makes referrals just down the hall to help keep people on the path to recovery beyond their time here, though assistance in transitioning back to the community.”

The facility’s first-floor Drop-Off & Crisis Triage Center and third-floor Transitional Shelter are preparing to open for services the week of May 17, 2021. The short-term Crisis Stabilization Clinic will open pending Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment licensing. For more information, please visit Community & Behavioral Health’s website.