Fort Logan Show Serves Up Music, Coffee and Self-Esteem

Since 2013, a group of staff at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan has brought joy to clients’ lives through hosting open mic shows where clients and staff can wow with their talents and creativity.

CMHIFL Coffee House Crew

Called the Coffee House, the shows aim to promote hope and optimism and break down the stigma of mental illness. All clients who have privileges to leave their units are encouraged to participate or attend. 

“One of our goals is collaboration between clients and staff,” says Bill Young, a mental health technician and one of the Coffee House organizers. “It’s a more normalized role. For the clients who are performing, it boosts their self-esteem.”

Young and collaborators, who call themselves the Coffee House Crew, put on a show three times annually. 

“The Coffee House originated from a small handful of dedicated employees tasked with the mission of moving the hospital from a medical model of patient care to the recovery model that it is today,” Young says.

Over the years, the Coffee House Crew has seen people play the piano like a professional, juggle, read poetry, tell jokes, and do a Thriller flash mob, among other talents.

Anginet Page is a peer specialist at the hospital and part of the Coffee House Crew. Her personal experience illustrates why the Coffee House is so powerful.

“At one of the mental institutions where I was a patient, there was a karaoke night and I sang a song,” Page says. “It got me back in tune with my talents. It made me remember that I am more than my symptoms, more than my illness. After I got out of the hospital and became a certified peer support specialist, I publicly sang the song again to celebrate. I will sing it today (Aug. 13) for my peers. It’s important to know we can have fulfilling lives after being a patient.” 

Page sang Titanium by David Guetta featuring Sia and was one of 15 acts at the most recent Coffee House on Aug. 13. Coffee House is held in the Fort Logan café, which is decorated to look like a New York coffee house hosting an open mic night. Coffee is served of course, and everything is paid for by the Coffee House Crew.  

“Coffee alone is such a normal experience for the clients,” says Aspen Wilson, a social worker in trauma-informed care and part of the Coffee House Crew. “Just to have a moment where they can sit and drink coffee and hang out with staff is so special for clients. So normalizing.”

(Pictured top left: Members of the Coffee House Crew pose before the Aug. 13 Coffee House. From L-R, Donna Trowbridge, patient rights advocate; Diana Luckman, psychologist; Bill Young, mental health technician; Aspen Wilson, social worker in trauma-informed care; Julia Lamb, music therapist; Anginet Page, peer specialist; Kerry Jessup, art therapist. Pictured in video: Julia Lamb, Coffee House co-organizer and music therapist at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan, performs Let It Go.)