OBH Statement on Equity

The Colorado Department of Human Services is deeply saddened by the killing of George Floyd and stands against racism in all of its manifestations. At the Office of Behavioral Health, we are challenging ourselves and all of our partners to reflect on how we promote equity in our policies and work.

As an institution of government and an overseer of programs and two hospitals, OBH recognizes our responsibility to have a conversation around systemic racism and opportunities to dismantle it. We are committed to real reform by evaluating the areas in which we have influence and taking action.

Here is a summary of some of the actions we are taking at OBH to meet our responsibility in promoting a more equitable and inclusive behavioral health system:

  • We are evaluating our contracts, policies and rules to identify inequities in both access to and delivery of care.

  • We are working to strengthen our outreach to nonprofits serving communities of color to hold group conversations around attitudes toward and obstacles to accessing behavioral health to develop a plan on how we do better.

  • As funders of community behavioral health programs, we are reviewing those programs to identify our policies, contracts, and trainings that have opportunities to advance equity. We will work collaboratively with our contractors, including community providers, support services, law enforcement agencies, non-profits, and other organizations.

  • We are providing additional support to our mental health hospital leadership and hospital Cultural Competency Committees to ensure that our employees and patients are treated fairly, with respect and inclusion, and to value group and individual differences in a changing environment.

  • We are working with leadership at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo Department of Public Safety to review our existing policies and ensure they promote a strong clinical approach to safety, including the use of force policies.  

  • We are reiterating that Colorado Crisis Services is a resource. Colorado Crisis Services Hotline workers are trained in areas of cultural humility, trauma-informed care, and power and privilege at the intersection of mental health. They are currently receiving additional training on talking about race and racism and on trauma related to oppression.

  • On social media, we are running ads for Colorado Crisis Services about mental health needs related to current events, including ads written through focus groups with Black Coloradans.

  • Also on social media, we are sharing Crisis Services posts that offer support to LGBTQ+ Coloradans and posts that recognize the intersection of race and identity and support Black LGBTQ+ Coloradans.

  • OBH, exhibiting as Colorado Crisis Services, participated in virtual celebrations for Denver Pride and Juneteenth.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but we wanted to publicly commit to holding ourselves accountable to promoting equity where we work and in the broader behavioral health system. We look forward to what we can accomplish together. 

Robert Werthwein, Director of the Office of Behavioral Health
Victoria Trapp, Deputy Director of Programs
Tony Gherardini, Deputy Director of Operations
Camille Harding, Division Director of Community Behavioral Health
Liz Owens, Director of Policy and Communications
Jill Marshall, Chief Executive Officer, Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo
David Polunas, Hospital Director, Colorado Mental Health Institute at Fort Logan
Jagruti Shah, Director of Forensic Services