Where to begin?

August 28, 2019

Dear Friends of Mental Health Colorado,

My name is Vincent Atchity, and I’m honored to serve as Mental Health Colorado’s president and CEO. I look forward to working with our dedicated staff, board of directors, and community partners to help Mental Health Colorado achieve its mission of promoting mental wellness, ending stigma, and ensuring equitable access to mental health and substance use services.

As I transition into my new role, I’m especially grateful for the support of Nancy VanDeMark, who served as interim president and CEO. Under Nancy’s leadership during the 2019 legislative session, Mental Health Colorado and its partners secured $20 million for mental health and substance use services. Her 30-plus years of experience in the substance use field helped Mental Health Colorado achieve some of the most significant accomplishments in our 65-year history.

In my former role as the executive director of The Equitas Project, I traveled around the state and country on a mission to disentangle mental health and criminal justice. In this distinctively polarized political era, there is no division when it comes to the distress and urgency with which we view the intersection of mental health and criminal justice.

As long as little or nothing is done systematically, equitably, and preventatively to support mental wellness, and as long as law enforcement officers are the primary first responders to crises and behaviors resulting from unmet health needs—jails and prisons will remain the state’s largest psychiatric facilities, and we will have no mental health parity. 

So, where to begin?

Everywhere at once. This must be a united effort across all fronts. The improvements we need to see in our mental wellness require a wider lens, a greater breadth of understanding, and a multi-sector strategy of equitable support across the lifespan.

So, what is our challenge? Every Coloradan has a role to play today, and every day, in supporting improved mental health. There can be no passive waiting for someone somewhere else to do something. I’m confident that with your help we will make Colorado a national leader in mental health.

We will be honoring Coloradans who have accepted that challenge at our annual Tribute gala on Sept. 28. Please purchase a ticket, donate an auction item, or make a contribution. Your support is tax-deductible—and more important than ever. There is no health that is more important than mental health.