DDPHE releases new strategic behavioral health plan Empower Denver

Published on April 15, 2021

Based on the Road to Wellness framework, this blueprint takes care coordination to the next level to increase access and availability for the well-being of all Denver residents

The Denver Department of Public Health & Environment (DDPHE) today released Empower Denver, Denver’s strategic plan to improve behavioral health services for those experiencing a crisis, such as substance misuse, job loss or mental health issues.

Empower Denver builds on Denver’s existing network of resources, systems, and providers to deliver the critical services needed for comprehensive behavioral health care. Too often, coordination challenges and a lack of shared data among providers makes it difficult for people to get the care they need. Empower Denver will increase care coordination and data-sharing to improve the experience for people seeking assistance.

“The moment someone is ready to seek help to overcome behavioral health challenges, they must have access to the resources and support they need,” said Mayor Hancock. “It is my hope that Empower Denver will bridge that gap, so that no one in Denver falls through the cracks in their time of greatest need.”

Empower Denver revolves around three overarching goals:

  • Making City resources related to and supporting behavioral health easily accessible to the public
  • Making information and awareness related to and supporting access to behavioral health resources readily available to the public
  • Promoting consistency in how the City collects, shares, and uses data related to behavioral health

Among Empower Denver’s strategies include the already deployed mobile behavioral health unit known as the Wellness Winnie, which from August to December 2020 assisted 1,316 in Denver, including administering naloxone, providing transportation to services, and collecting and disposing of used syringes. Of those the Wellness Winnie helped, 69% reported experiencing unstable housing, and 40% requested assistance with finding and accessing essential resources.

Additional priorities within Empower Denver to be addressed now through 2023 include:

  • Implementing a 24/7 crisis stabilization and transitional housing program for people experiencing a behavioral health crisis (Behavioral Health Solutions Center) opening Spring 2021)
  • Creating a 24/7 care coordination center for people living with behavioral health conditions
  • Diverting those experiencing a behavioral health crisis from jail by providing easy access to appropriate services
  • Launching a behavioral health stigma-reduction campaign 
  • Training communities to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, establishing linkages with schools and community-based mental health agencies and educating individuals about available resources

“Our many systems and resources must work together to provide comprehensive care for our residents,” says Robert McDonald, Executive Director of DDPHE and Public Health Administrator for the City of Denver. “Empower Denver outlines a clear path toward collaboration and partnerships that will dovetail to better support and begin to heal those experiencing a behavioral health crisis.”

Empower Denver advances the Road to Wellness: A Strategic Framework to Improve Behavioral Health in Denver, the ambitious behavioral health roadmap released in January 2020 as 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.

For more information, please visit Community & Behavioral Health’s website.