Denver Expands Youth Mental Health Services in Public Schools

Published on September 13, 2023

To address youth mental health, including violence in our schools, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE) is partnering with Denver Public Schools (DPS) to pilot behavioral health programming for students. Funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), DDPHE has allocated over $850,000 to connect DPS students and families with culturally responsive and linguistically specific resources.

Mental and behavioral health conditions have increased significantly in Denver and across the country since the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the recent Behavioral Health Needs Assessment (BHNA) released by DDPHE, for many Denver residents, accessing mental health services can be difficult. DDPHE is partnering with community-based organizations to address behavioral health concerns described in the BHNA including coordination, education, and services, among others.

“This pilot program is part of DDPHE’s goal to meet people, where they are with the resources they need,” said DDPHE Executive Director and Denver’s Public Health Administrator Bob McDonald. “By bolstering the tools in schools and integrating programs that work to understand the core needs of students, we can give youth a strong foundation, so they do not turn to violence.”

In collaboration with DPS this pilot will provide behavioral health related programming and personnel in identified DPS schools, including:

  • A new community liaison program, which will integrate eight new staff members on the DPS mental health team to support attendance and serve as point for assessing students’ needs and connecting them and their families with city and community resources
  • Behavioral health staffing pipeline, which will provide opportunities and funding to support those interested in getting licensure to move into higher paid, high demand behavioral health roles 
  • A dedicated outreach team, which will bring behavioral health outreach activities and resources to DPS students and families 

Expanding behavioral health services is a key priority of Denver’s ARPA funding plan. Denver must allocate ARPA local relief funds, totaling $308 million, by the end of 2024 and spend them by the end of 2026. The city solicited and received feedback from over 12,000 residents, Denver City Council, city agencies, the Mayor’s Stimulus Advisory Committee, and the Mayor’s Economic Recovery Council to inform the use of the city’s ARPA allocation. Additionally, more can be seen about progress on the programs in Denver's regularly updated  American Rescue Plan Funding Dashboard and story map.