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.

Many big US cities now answer mental health crisis calls with civilian teams -- not police

AP News | August 27, 2023

DENVER (AP) — Christian Glass was a geology geek, a painter and a young man beset by a mental health crisis when he called 911 for help getting his car unstuck in a Colorado mountain town last year.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived, he refused to get out of the car after saying that supernatural beings were after him, body camera video shows. The officers shouted, threatened and coaxed. Glass made heart shapes with his hands and prayed: “Dear Lord, please, don’t let them break the window.”

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Youth Suicide Prevention

FOX31 Denver | August 18, 2023

Join WellPower's Michelle Tijerina and FOX31's Kirk Yuhnke as they discuss youth suicide prevention, the Voz y Corazon program and ways that youth can find empowerment through art and creativity.

How some police departments are rethinking 911 call responses

wbur | August 14, 2023

Calling 911 can sometimes have tragic consequences for people in mental health crisis.

They can be arrested or even killed.

Some organizations – and police departments – are trying to change that by working with behavioral health professionals.

Today, On Point: Rethinking policing and mental health.

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Mocktails with Dr. Jody Ryan

KWGN Denver | July 26, 2023

Join our own Dr. Jody Ryan and KWGN Denver news anchor Katie Orth in crafting delightful mocktails that make summer even more enjoyable without alcohol.

‘Impactful and beautiful’: how US homeless shelters are getting a radical redesign

The Guardian | June 26, 2023

When a former resident of the Path Home Family Village in Portland, Oregon, called and asked if he and his partner could get married at the shelter, Brandi Tuck, the executive director, knew that the shelter’s redesign had truly worked.

“Homelessness is the hardest, most power-stripping experience a family can have together,” Tuck said. “And for a family to have such a positive, dignified experience and want to come back is just a perfect example of how impactful and beautiful this place is.”

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DEI Awards winner: Dr. Leslye Steptoe

Denver Business Journal | June 23, 2023

Join us in congratulating VP of Diversity, Equity & Inclusiveness Dr. Leslye Steptoe on her recent DEI award.

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Broncos, WellPower join youth experiencing homelessness at Urban Peak for conversation on mental health

Denver Broncos | May 24, 2023

The power of a single conversation should not be doubted.

A trio of Broncos players spent Tuesday evening at Urban Peak Drop-In Center for a facilitated conversation on mental health with youth experiencing homelessness in Denver — and the depth of conversation was evident. Safety Justin Simmons, center Lloyd Cushenberry III and running back Damarea Crockett joined a pair of Denver Broncos Cheerleaders for an hour-long session facilitated by WellPower that focused on the importance of mental health.

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What Defunding the Police Actually Looks Like

The American Prosepct | April 10, 2023

Brandon Johnson, newly elected mayor of Chicago, has called for more resources for community development over increased police budgeting. If Johnson wants to ensure the city has “smart” police, he could look at the plethora of models that demonstrate that the healthiest response to crime and community issues is often not the police at all. Across the country, cities have been experimenting with these community alternatives to policing.

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Another 49 apartments for people experiencing homelessness just opened in Barnum

Denverite | April 6, 2023

On Thursday morning, nonprofit and government leaders cut the ribbon at a 50-unit income-restricted apartment complex, at 203 S. Federal Blvd., in the Barnum neighborhood.

The building will house 49 individuals transitioning out of homelessness and serve individuals making up to $24,650 a year — or 30% of the area median income.

The three-story building is near transit. There’s a dog run and a garden. Tenants will have access to meeting rooms where they’ll receive social and emotional support.

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Rhonda's Place offers 49 new affordable housing units in Denver 

Denver Gazette | April 6, 2023

The latest city-supported affordable housing development, Rhonda’s Place, is already accepting new residents for its one-bedroom apartments and supportive, wrap-around services from Wellpower, according to a news release.

Denver’s Department of Housing Stability (HOST) along with City Council President Jamie Torres held a grand opening Thursday for the 49 supportive housing units, located at 203 S. Federal Blvd. in the Barnum neighborhood.

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Denver Celebrates Opening of 49 Supportive Housing Units

Denver Gov | April 6, 2023

$2.3 million investment from Denver’s voter-approved Homelessness Resolution Fund makes southwest Denver development viable 

Denver’s Department of Housing Stability (HOST) and City Council President Jamie Torres today celebrated the grand opening of 49 new supportive housing units at 203 S. Federal Blvd. in the Barnum neighborhood. Developed by the nonprofit REDI Corporation, Rhonda’s Place offers one-bedroom apartments with supportive wraparound services for individuals transitioning from homelessness, including individuals with disabilities and mental health needs.

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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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Denver's police alternative STAR program continues expansion

Denver 7 ABC | March 28, 2023

DENVER – The Denver City Council will consider another contract to help the STAR (Support Team Assisted Response) program continue its expansion.

The STAR program, which is a collaborative partnership between several community agencies, responds to non-violent emergency calls in Denver with a two-person team that includes an EMT and a mental health clinician.

The program was designed to minimize police interactions with citizens experiencing mental health issues.

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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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