A wide range of stakeholders gathered at the Montezuma-Cortez High School library late Friday afternoon to talk about mental health needs.
The event was hosted by the Keystone Policy Center’s American Indian/Alaska Native Program, alongside a regional visit from the state’s Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera. Along with the state team, attendees represented several local organizations that deal with mental health in some capacity, including the Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1, Pueblo Community College, Axis Health System, Southwest Memorial Hospital, the Piñon Project, the behavioral health department in Towaoc and the Montezuma County commissioners.
Ernest House Jr. from the Keystone Policy Center moderated the “Listening Session.” He said the need for the session arose from a need to collaborate and understand what other community partners are doing on this important topic.
“We didn’t know what other groups are working on, what projects, how can organizations be helpful,” he said.
The topics discussed included the need for more counselors and behavioral health providers in Southwest Colorado, the idea of school as a place of safety for many students, peer-to-peer supports, funding shortfalls, seeing diversity as a strength rather than being divisive and reinforcing the value of family dinners.
Underlying it all was an expressed need to see mental health holistically, with different community partners addressing different components.
“One of my big takeaways, in addition to all the struggles that the community down here faces, is the passion of the people and the service providers and the teachers and the nurses and the family resource people and the homeless shelter people and the community and the passion they have surrounding this issue,” Primavera said. “We hope to take that energy and hopefully make some strides for behavioral health. Not only down here but throughout the state.”