The Role of Social Determinants of Health in Mental Health Care

View this post in ASL in a new tab, or scroll to the end of the article to see the video on screen.

None of us would be as successful, healthy or productive as we are now if we didn’t have a stable home, nutritious food or employment. These aspects of life, along with several others, are commonly known as the “social determinants of health,” and form the foundation for true well-being.

At WellPower, we know that people are far more than their diagnoses. In helping the more than 20,000 people we serve each year get the support they need to thrive, we take a comprehensive approach based on the social determinants of health, from housing support to education and employment assistance, access to nutritious food to exercise and art therapy programs, and so much more. This commitment to recognizing and supporting the fullness of each person we serve is one of the many things that makes us stand out as a provider organization.

We meet people where they are and stay with them every step of the way along their journey. Here are a few of the ways we provide a wide range of supports to help the people we serve thrive.


Having a safe, stable place to live is easy to take for granted. Our homes allow us to rest, recharge and prepare for the challenges and opportunities ahead. They give us a sense of personal dignity and belonging in our community.

Not having a home can make treatment and recovery even more difficult for those who are experiencing mental illness. When people have a home and feel safe, they’re much more able to be successful in their treatment and access other services to support their recovery.

WellPower offers an array of housing programs across the community to serve a wide range of needs, including 14 residential treatment houses and nine apartment buildings. We also partner with city, state and federal agencies to help hundreds of families find housing each year through voucher programs.

Our housing services are based on the Permanent Supportive Housing model, which is a nationally recognized approach to ending homelessness that combines housing with wraparound services – from behavioral health treatment to job training and life skills support – so people can live successfully in their communities and build independence. Our residential treatment programs serve 85% of the people who are currently in this level of care across Colorado.

Healthy Food

Food fuels us. Access to nutritious food helps us learn better, work harder and care for our loved ones more deeply. As one of the most important social determinants of health, it is a necessity for the work we do at WellPower.

Our Dahlia Campus Farms & Gardens connects people with fresh, local food produced by our aquaponics greenhouse, a 40,000 square foot market farm and partnerships with other local food producers and restaurants.

In addition, our food box program at the Resource Center provides healthy food for people we serve throughout the community. As in-person services shut down in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we transitioned our food box pick-up program to a delivery-based model where our clinicians brought food boxes directly to the doorsteps of people we serve across Denver.

Education and Employment Support

Education allows us to do things we couldn’t do before, and work is one of the primary ways we find meaning in our lives. Both of these social determinants are important for many of the people we serve.

Our NextChapter in Education and Employment programs serve as a bridge to the greater community, providing opportunities for people to reconnect with and build meaningful, independent lives. NextChapter in Education offers computer classes; a paid culinary training program; art studio instruction; music education; college support, GED classes and vocational skills training; and an array of fitness, nutrition, social, spiritual and recreational classes.

NextChapter in Employment teaches professional skills, provides career assessments and matches people with Denver area businesses who are looking for dependable, productive and motivated employees.

Relationships and Community Connection

A sense of connection to others and belonging in the community is essential for our well-being, for the strength of our communities and for successful treatment for the people we serve. Our Dahlia Campus for Health & Well-Being was created through partnership with the neighborhood. The campus is based on building strong relationships and offers a variety of spaces for the community to gather, including a gymnasium, meeting rooms and teaching kitchen where we hold cooking classes featuring the produce we grow on-site and distribute throughout the community.

We offer classes, movie and game nights, group outings and many other opportunities for people we serve to gather and build a sense of community through several of our programs, including NextChapter and residential programs. Our Emerson St. for Teens & Young Adults program serves people ages 16-25 years old is particularly active in social and wellness events for the young adults we serve.

And So Much More

These are only a few of the social determinants of health we support with our programs. To find out more about these and others – including connections to primary care, personal financial services, well-being resources for employers, and more – contact us at