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Understanding The Landscape of Youth Mental Health Support in the San Luis Valley

By Tessa Seaney

The San Luis Valley Regional Council shifted its focus to youth mental health in 2020. Initial funding in this focus area supported three organizations: Early Childhood Council of the San Luis Valley, San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group and Adams State University. Programs provided by these organizations supported youth at all stages of development, and helped lead the Council toward supporting youth in the valley for their entire childhood, from “cradle to graduation.”

In 2021, Colorado Children’s Hospital declared a state of emergency in youth mental health in Colorado which motivated the Council to hear from other organizations in the region addressing these needs. The Council tasked its regional staff and Fellows to spend time learning from organizations and experts in the Valley about community mental health needs.

In early 2022, San Luis Valley regional staff completed a San Luis Valley Youth Mental Health Landscape Analysis. With the help of the Council, the team compiled a list of organizations, funders and government agencies working to address youth mental health, making it a priority to include organizations in all six counties. The team researched organizations El Pomar Foundation had funded previously and also where they could create new funding relationships. In addition, they sought knowledge from other Funders in the region on what youth mental health programs they were supporting and what trends they were seeing.

In January and February, regional staff met with ten organizations in the youth mental health space and heard four major themes:

  1. Each organization had a varied definition of youth and who they served.
  2. Barriers to accessing care included: lack of transportation, high costs of treatments, language barriers and stigma around getting treatment.
  3. It was difficult to find and retain quality providers in the region.
  4. Each noted the importance of the connection between drug addiction and mental health.

After hearing these themes, the Council requested funding proposals from seven of the organizations to learn more about their needs, how they were working to meet those needs, an overview of the services provided, population of individuals served and a high-level program budget. The proposals requested a range of support, from general operating support to providing funding for a full-time school district mental health provider for the 2022-23 school year. The Council agreed that each of the proposals fit into the youth mental health focus area and requested the organizations attend their next Council meeting for an opportunity to learn more. The Council fully funded each request, directing the below dollar amounts to each county in the region.

Breakdown of Council funding by county.

The Council valued this funding process as they felt it helped identify the needs and recommended funding for programs and organizations that were working to alleviate these needs. The funding decisions support a wide age range of youth in both prevention and treatment areas. The Council looks forward to working with these organizations over the next year and seeing the impacts of the funding.

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