Partnership Between CDHS and 211 Colorado Recently Launched
Coloradans experiencing job loss can receive support navigating available behavioral health benefits and resources through 211 Colorado thanks to a partnership between the Colorado Department of Human Services’ (CDHS) Office of Behavioral Health (OBH), 211 Colorado, and Mile High United Way.
Coloradans who have lost employment can dial 211 to learn about mental health and substance use benefits through their insurance or assistance programs, sign up for Medicaid, and explore mental health and/or substance use treatment in their community, as well as connect to other social services, such as food, housing, and financial assistance. Joblessness can have a significant impact on the mental well-being of individuals. Research cited in a Well Being Trust report shows that economic downturn correlates with “deaths of despair” — deaths from suicide or substance misuse.
“Navigating the behavioral health system is a significant barrier to accessing care, and that can be especially difficult for Coloradans who have the added stress of looking for work,” said Robert Werthwein, director of OBH. “We are thrilled to partner with Mile High United Way to offer this critical service to Coloradans who have been hit hard by the pandemic.”
Senate Bill 21-239, signed by Gov. Jared Polis in June, charged OBH to contract with 211 Colorado to hire and train staff to offer behavioral health navigation services. Available in all 64 counties, 211 Colorado is a confidential and multilingual service that assists people with navigating more than 7,500 health and human service resources statewide. The behavioral health benefits navigation for unemployed Coloradans is funded through June 2022.
“Our community needs us now more than ever,” said Christine Benero, president and CEO of Mile High United Way. “We are proud to partner with CDHS to bring this much-needed resource to our state. 211 Colorado continues to connect individuals and families to thousands of basic needs resources. Behavioral health support is a critical need, and we are eager to bring this to 211 Colorado. We hope individuals and families continue to utilize 211 for help or reach out to 211 for the first time.”
The $1 million appropriation through the bill funds the services and an advertising campaign that will market the service to unemployed Coloradans, including Coloradans of color and LGBTQ+ Coloradans — groups that have historically faced barriers in accessing behavioral health care.
The service launches as Colorado contends with elevated unemployment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Colorado’s unemployment rate has outpaced the national average throughout 2021, and Coloradans are quitting their jobs at higher rates than in the past two decades, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In 2020, 211 Colorado received more than 182,000 contacts, including calls, chats, texts, and emails, and nearly 457,000 online database searches.