Wheat Ridge Funds Mental Health Center

THE JEFFERSON CENTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH RECEIVED A $400,000 investment from the City of Wheat Ridge to support their programs and services over the next four years. PHOTO: NATALIE KERR

The Jefferson Center for Mental Health will receive $400,000 from the city for mental health services

This winter, expanded mental health resources are coming to town.

Wheat Ridge has elected to dedicate $400,000 of its federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, a local non-profit providing mental health care and substance abuse services to the community. The investment will be distributed over four years and is intended to help further the Center’s mission of inspiring hope and improving lives in Jefferson County.

Deputy City Manager Allison Scheck says that using ARPA funds for the Jefferson Center is one way that Wheat Ridge is helping people navigate the COVID pandemic’s aftermath.

“People experienced [the pandemic] very differently,” says Scheck. “For some, it was a period of extreme isolation. For some, it was a period of extreme poverty and financial instability. People lost their jobs or their loved ones.” 

These losses have created long term impacts which, in many cases, have outlasted coughs and fevers. ARPA was a rare infusion of federal cash, almost $8 million, into Wheat Ridge, and City Council determined that improving community mental health through the Jefferson Center would be a worthy use of the funds. 

Scheck notes that maintaining this partnership is in the city’s best interest, and that collaboration with this long-time community player feels “natural.” She considers normalization of mental health conversations to be an important contribution from Jefferson Center.

“There was a time where it wasn’t really okay,” Scheck said. “[Mental health] wasn’t something we talked about a lot, and this work normalizes [these conversations].” 

Scheck emphasizes how mental health can be a major part of a community’s backbone, and that JeffCo is extremely fortunate to have such a strong and capable partner.

On the receiving end of the funds, Jefferson Center’s Community Engagement Manager Christy Boland looks forward to the programs made possible in part by the city’s investment. These will include professional development for staff and trainings for community members on topics such as suicide prevention and communication in challenging situations. Boland hopes to expand the audience of these trainings to eventually include Wheat Ridge police officers and high school students.

Jefferson Center has been helping JeffCo residents in need of mental health support since the 1950’s. They serve people from many different walks of life and help them “live their best lives,” according to Stephanie Schiemann, public information officer for the Jefferson Center.

“That can look like therapy, it can look like medication, it can look like substance abuse treatment,” Scheimann said. “I think our youngest client is two years old, and our oldest is 92. So [we serve] the full continuum.” 

Schiemann also says that community involvement has always been a point of emphasis for Jefferson Center. 

“[It’s] really about connecting with folks, talking about mental health, talking about substance use, making it okay to talk about what you need and when you need it,” Scheimann said.

Other separate ARPA funds have been authorized by City Council to fund a portion of the salary for a mental health clinician at Wheat Ridge High School. Jefferson Center has matched this, and this clinician is currently employed at the school to help students and their families.

On December 15th, Jefferson Center will host a training at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center called “Bringing Down the Boiling Point: Communicating in Challenging Situations.” Pre-registry is required at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/mental-health-and-wellness-series-tickets-701112164357?utm-campaign=social&utm-content=attendeeshare&utm-medium=discovery&utm-term=listing&utm-source=cp&aff=ebdsshcopyurl

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