Building Hope looks back on successes during the pandemic

Jennifer McAtamney, Executive Director of Building Hope, discusses mental health care in Summit County on September 17, 2019. Building Hope is a Summit County nonprofit that works to promote better mental health.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily Archives

Mental health was at the forefront of everyone’s concerns when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Summit County, especially for those at Building Hope, a local nonprofit dedicated to creating a better system. mental health, reducing stigma and improving access to mental health resources. .

Building hope has not been slowed down by the pandemic. At the Breckenridge City Council working session on Tuesday, July 27, Executive Director Jennifer McAtamney presented a summary of the organization’s work over the past year and a half.

“It was thanks to the support from the community before the pandemic, in 2017 (and) in 2018, when this community came together and decided they were going to do something about mental health, that we were able to activate the way we were over the last year, ”McAtamney said.

One of the main goals of the organization over the past year was to spread the message that “we are all imperfect together” and that “it is okay not to agree”. Building Hope aimed to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness by spreading these ideas and telling the stories of residents who overcame their own challenges.

McAtamney has scientifically stated that storytelling is one of the best ways to reduce stigma, a concept that led to the Faces of Hope campaign..

“One of the most important messages is, no matter how hard it gets – whether it’s drug addiction, severe depression, suicidality – there is hope,” McAtamney said. .

Due to the pandemic, McAtamney said the county has started to see more and more people expressing anxiety about returning to work. To help support these people, Building Hope connected larger cohorts of the workforce with therapists for informal, non-clinical group conversations that allowed them to talk about what they were feeling. Called Reflect and Connect Cafes, these conversations have served more than 40 organizations and more than 900 people across 340 virtual events, according to McAtamney.

She said the content of those conversations evolved throughout the pandemic, initially focusing on the stress of returning to work and moving on to topics such as how people are treated in the workplace.

McAtamney also highlighted how important it is to have these difficult conversations about mental health for young people in the community. Building Hope created additional campaigns and resources this year for children and teens, and the group worked with the school district on direct referrals.

Building Hope is able to directly support people in need of mental health care through its scholarship program, which offers up to 12 free therapy sessions. Together with the school district, the organization offered more than 100 scholarships to county children last year.

“Over 90% of people with a mental health problem recover when they get the right interventions,” McAtamney said. “And thanks to the work we do in this community, these interventions are happening. “

The scholarship program has enabled Building Hope to build a network of accessible therapists. There are now more than 70 therapists who will accept a Building Hope scholarship as payment. The organization issued 611 scholarships last year.

“When someone wants therapy, at over $ 100 a week, it’s unaffordable for most of the people who live here, even the wealthy,” McAtamney said. “This scholarship really ensures that people are able to get the care they need.”

Tim Casey, founder of Building Hope, said improving immediate access to therapy was one of the goals when starting the organization, which was made possible with the support of the community.

“We’ve come this far, and now you can literally get almost immediate access,” Casey said. “Before, it would potentially be a few weeks. If we achieved anything, it was access to therapy.

Building Hope has also made efforts to improve its ability to work with insurance companies. McAtamney said a hurdle for many therapists is billing because one person can do all of the work in a private practice.

Building Hope contracted with a behavioral health billing company to help local therapists get accredited to accept third party payments. McAtamney said 40 of Building Hope’s therapists accepted insurance when initially only six were able to.

“We couldn’t do it without the community. McAtamney told the board. “It really is your commitment as a community that has helped us to be so successful and to be able to do the work that we do. “

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