In the News

In the News

WellPower in the News

Find WellPower (formerly Mental Health Center of Denver) in news media all over Colorado and nationally. Read below for previews of articles, and click on the links to read or watch the original stories.

Mental Health experts and park rangers team up to battle homelessness

Scripps News | March 14, 2023

“Today we’re out on patrol. We’re going to both park and trails to follow up on some calls we got,” said Caronia Distefano, a park ranger supervisor in the trails district for the City and County of Denver.

As we drove to a park location, she continued to explain a call she received yesterday.

“We met this man yesterday at a park after getting a call from maintenance,” she said. “At about 6:30 am he gave me a call and said it was a bad night, he was cold, and he wanted to get in somewhere.”

Traditionally, park rangers respond to calls in our parks to enforce rules. This can include telling people experiencing homelessness that they can’t camp in a certain area.

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The park ranger, the mental health worker and the endless hurdles they face to help people on Denver's streets

The Colorado Sun | March 10, 2023

The woman was hidden under a blanket along a chain-link fence when park ranger Caronia DiStefano called out, “Hey there! Can you please poke out and talk to us?”

The red-haired woman in her mid-40s sat up, startled, wondering whether she was about to get kicked out of her outdoor bed on a chilly March morning. Downtown Denver’s skyline rose in the east, and downhill from her resting spot near Sheridan Station, a man aggressively tossed an electric scooter from a bridge. It crashed onto the sidewalk below and he shouted obscenities at the park ranger.

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Jeannie Ritter, Colorado’s former first lady, is still working to break mental health stigma

The Colorado Sun | March 9, 2023

Jeannie Ritter jokes that she could have chosen bicycle helmets as her “first lady cause” while her husband, Bill, was Colorado governor. At least she could have counted the number of children who received a helmet and declared her goal achieved.

Instead, the former teacher who grew up in a family affected by severe mental illness, chose something much messier. She spent four years traveling Colorado to talk about mental health, ditching the pantsuits early on for a jean jacket and cowboy boots, all part of her plan to seem more approachable and get people to open up about their struggles.

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Tent city bans haven't solved America's homelessness crisis. A Denver program is trying something new: Compassion.

USA Today | February 5, 2023

Melting snow mingled with broken hypodermic needles on the park's grass as a ranger and a mental health counselor walked together.

Feet crunching across ice and scattered glass, Jodie Marozas and Tom Kaiser trod across what was once the crown jewel of Denver: Civic Center Park. Its history spans a century, back to a time when it was known for its architecture, concerts and plays.

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USA Today Front Page

Denver Park Rangers to perform patrols with mental health clinicians

Denver 7 ABC | January 19, 2023

As those with the Denver Park Rangers do their patrols through city parks and trails, they have one goal.

"Denver park rangers are responsible for keeping the parks safe for the people for the parks and keeping people safe," said Senior Park Ranger Corey Beaton.

That typically means enforcing rules and writing tickets, but oftentimes, the situations they handle are more complicated than that.

"It might be easy to see someone who's camping illegally in the park and say, "Oh, I want to call the police and have them move right away,"'' said Tom Kaiser, a mental health clinician with WellPower. "That person has a story. That person has a lot of systems and experiences that have failed them in the past, and that's why they've gotten to that point."

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Mental health co-responders now roll with Denver Park Rangers

Denverite | January 12, 2023

In 2020, as protests against police brutality overtook Denver’s streets, the city launched a long-planned program to remove officers from situations that would be better served by social workers.

And so Support Team Assisted Response, widely known as STAR, began with a single van and a limited pilot to see how things would go. Their most common mission: to help people living outside or dealing with addiction instead of handing out a citation.

The program has grown since those early days, and now it has a cousin dedicated specifically to Denver’s green spaces.

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Mental health counselors added to patrols at Denver parks, trails

FOX31 | January 10, 2023

The city of Denver is pioneering a new program that pairs up therapists and park rangers to help people experiencing homelessness and drug use in city-owned parks and trails.

“What we do is have a mental health clinician come on our patrols with us and help us on tougher contacts with individuals who might be experiencing homelessness or addiction,” park ranger Caronia Distefano said.

She said the contacts with individuals needing help have become increasingly more common across Denver. In the past, rangers would call Denver police who already have a team of co-responders trained in de-escalation and crisis support.

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Start the New Year on the healthy side by going dry in January

FOX31 | January 5, 2023

After the holidays, some people are staying sober during “Dry January” and Dr. Jody Ryan with WellPower says that’s a great way to start the new year.

For decades, cutting back on alcohol has been a common New Year’s resolution. Dry January is a newer trend that started as a public health challenge in the UK in 2013 – but it has gained a widespread following. In fact, 35% of U.S. adults reported taking part in Dry January in 2022.

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