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Breaking the Stigma of Behavioral Health Through Prevention and Education

This article first appeared in the 2020 It Takes A Valley Campaign Stewardship Report.

Youth activity at My Future Pathways’ Youth Center in Edwards

Prevention and education are a key focus of It Takes A Valley: Transforming Behavioral Health. Eagle Valley Behavioral Health (EVBH) and Vail Health Foundation collaborate with 25 partner organizations dedicated to this community-wide effort.

Before EVBH’s investment in the Eagle River Valley’s behavioral health system, service gaps contributed to Colorado ranking 43rd in the nation for mental health care. In 2017, nearly one in four Eagle County seventh and eighth graders considered suicide. Emergency room visits for anxiety and depression increased by 465 percent in the last few years. EVBH is committed to changing these numbers by providing support for both existing programs as well as new initiatives.

Anti-Stigma Campaign

In 2019, with the assistance of a $60 million pledge from Vail Health, EVBH launched the Long Live marketing campaign in fall 2019, which was dedicated to eradicating the stigma attached to behavioral health issues.

The EVBH website at is a crucial part of the anti-stigma campaign. The valley now has a community dashboard that acts as a repository for all behavioral health resources in the community, including telehealth services and emergency assistance for people seeking help. The site also maintains a schedule of free training and education events, a comprehensive behavioral health provider and resource directory, and all behavioral health job listings in the community.

Transforming Behavioral Health

In December 2019, Vail Health Foundation and EVBH launched the It Takes A Valley campaign, an ambitious $100 million fundraising campaign to overhaul the valley’s behavioral health system. As part of this fundraising campaign, community partners are focusing on prevention support for all ages and outreach to all community members.

Here are a few examples of ongoing community programs:

  • SpeakUp ReachOut continues its efforts to train 75 percent of the community in suicide prevention skills and awareness. They now offer programs aimed at two new demographics: Working Minds, dedicated to suicide prevention training in the workplace, and Live Through This, aimed at supporting people who have survived a suicide attempt.
  • Mountain Youth has launched Valley’s Voice, a program that fosters prosocial involvement in teen-identified community service projects. Its philanthropic partnerships allow student compensation for their involvement in these projects. Mountain Youth continues its free Eat Chat Parent series, bringing national speakers to the Eagle River Valley throughout the school year.
  • Olivia’s Fund provides financial assistance for behavioral health services for anyone who lives or works in Eagle and Summit counties and cannot afford treatment. The fund offers up to six free sessions per year, per recipient.
  • Currently, 30 students at Colorado Mountain College and 45 students at Colorado Mesa University are receiving a scholarship for their undergraduate degrees through My Future Pathways (MFP) and Guardian Scholars, ensuring they graduate with no student debt. In addition, four students are receiving a scholarship for their Master of Social Work at Denver University through a partnership with EVBH. MFP continues to provide youth mentoring programs for middle school and high school students and beyond.
  • Early Childhood Partners aims to expand prevention efforts to cover the youngest members of our community, including home visitation programs, early childhood infant mental health consultation, and parenting classes. Early childhood awareness is currently being integrated into primary care visits and expanding its services for newborns to five-year-olds.
  • The MFP Youth Center provides children and young adults with a safe place to socialize, receive mentoring and tutoring, and have access to technology, the internet, and training.
Jay Pepitone, Hope Center school-based clinician

Future Efforts

Although the It Takes A Valley campaign has already brought many much-needed resources to the community, there is still a long way to go. Recognizing that this is not a problem exclusive to the Eagle Valley, EVBH plans to partner with other resort communities across the country on comprehensive prevention and education initiatives.

Community philanthropy continues to play a vital role in reaching our goal of transforming behavioral health in the Eagle Valley. With the generous help of our benefactors, the monumental scope of the It Takes A Valley campaign is on its way to becoming a model for communities to emulate nationwide.

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