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Reflections on Five Years of Progress and a Vision for the Future

A Note from Kiara

Dear Community,

As I reflect on the past five years that I’ve had the privilege of serving as Jefferson Center’s CEO, I am filled with a profound sense of gratitude and pride. This year holds special significance, not just because of this professional milestone, but also because Jefferson Center commemorates our 65 years of dedicated service to our community. Together, we have achieved remarkable milestones and transformative growth.

As we look back at our journey, it’s important to celebrate our accomplishments, but also to set our sights on the promising future that lies ahead as we continue to work towards our vision of a community where mental health matters and care is accessible to all.

When I joined Jefferson Center five years ago, I was driven by a profound sense of purpose. I believed, as I still do, in the transformative power of community mental health to make a difference in the lives of the individuals and families we serve. I believe in people, in the ability of the people we serve to overcome tremendous challenges and find joy, meaning, and satisfaction in their lives. I believe in the people on our team to connect around a common purpose and make a real difference in the lives of others. I believe in the people who come together to partner towards a thriving community. And we have seen that actualized over the past 5 years and the 6 decades before that.

Our team, comprised of over 800 dedicated professionals, has given their heart, energy and expertise to provide compassionate care and support to our community. The way we provide care has evolved significantly, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, as we sought to understand and respond to the changing needs of the people we serve. Now, more than ever, we provide a robust array of services to individuals of all ages, from children to older adults, with expertise in addressing trauma, depression, anxiety, serious mental health diagnoses, substance use disorders, and addressing complex basic social needs. A few of the highlights include:

Evolving the ways that people connect to care:

  • Collaborative Care Clinics: We’ve introduced a revolutionary approach that empowers those we serve to decide when they want to engage in therapy. Individuals, kids and families can check in with their entire care team on demand to address the needs that they have today.
  • Around 40% of our services are now delivered via telehealth, allowing us to reach individuals in the comfort of their own homes, or on-demand from several community based locations, and provide greater access to a broader array of services.

Substance Use Service Continuum:

We have created an entire continuum of substance use disorder treatment to support people on and through their recovery journey. In addition to our outpatient substance use disorder treatment and 24/7 Withdrawal Management programs, over the past five years we have added:

  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) and expanded group offerings in person and via telehealth
  • Recovery Housing for Women, offering a supportive living environment for women on their recovery journey
  • Mobile Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Vehicle, providing vital opioid addiction treatments to our mountain communities
  • Last October, we opened our Residential Recovery program for adults, offering a 24-hour structured addiction treatment program in a safe and secure community-based setting. This initiative represents another step toward combating addiction within our community.
  • We now look forward to the opening of a new Youth Residential Recovery Program, a one-of-a-kind offering in the state. This program will extend our compassionate and evidence-based care to address substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders for youth aged 13-18.

Housing Solutions:

Housing is an essential component of mental health and overall wellbeing, and we’ve long been committed to creating housing solutions that provide housing navigation and support, as well as both temporary and permanent homes for those with complex needs. Each year, we assist more than 600 people in achieving and maintaining housing. Amidst the housing crisis, we’ve expanded our housing services and formed new partnerships. This includes providing more case management, skills training, and development services than ever before.

In 2018, we began our journey into Permanent Supportive Housing and Housing First Models, adding 10 units of PSH and providing behavioral health support to other PSH projects in the following years. In 2021, we initiated the process to create a 40-unit, permanent supportive housing property in Lakewood, thanks to low-income federal tax credits awarded through the Colorado Housing and Financing Authority and numerous partnerships. This new apartment complex, Solid Ground, is set to open in April 2024, and marks a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to support housing solutions for our community.

Expanding Access through Community Based Care:

In partnership with more than a hundred partner organizations, we’ve significantly expanded the number of community-based service locations, making our services more accessible. This includes partnerships with schools, medical practices, nursing care and assisted living homes, virtual on demand kiosks, shelters, and resource centers. This has allowed us to serve nearly 30,000 people annually.

Advocacy and Systems Reform:

Our engagement at the state and national levels, alongside deep relationships with legislators and state leadership, has allowed us to be a strong voice for behavioral health, advocating for the most complex needs of our community, decreasing stigma, and changing the narrative on behavioral health.

Supporting Our Team:

We love our team. Our commitment to fostering a culture of engagement and support has led to our lowest turnover rate on record, at just 15%. We know that valuing and retaining our dedicated team, and being a great place to work is essential to providing quality care for those we serve.

My leadership philosophy is rooted in fostering creativity and inclusivity across our organization and beyond. I believe in bold and thoughtful steps toward innovation, with a focus on continuous improvement to fulfill our mission and engage our dedicated staff. And above all, an authentic valuing of connection and the possibilities that exist for cultivating growth when people come together with a vision.

Amidst an unprecedented time of transformation for behavioral health, as we navigate systems changes that impact the resources we have and the ways that we operate, we are committed to a vision for the next 65 years—where no one is afraid to seek help when they need it, when access to appropriate, responsive, and quality behavioral health care is available for everyone and, where people are able to meet their basic human needs. Jefferson Center is committed to evolving in ways that we cultivate a strong workforce, dedicated partnerships, and ensure the resources and stability necessary to achieve this vision for decades to come.

The past five years have been a journey of incredible growth and progress, and yet only a speck in the story of Jefferson Center. A chapter that I hope sets the stage for a thriving future ahead. Thank you for being on this journey with us, for your dedication and support and recognition that behavioral health is integral to all that we are.

– Kiara Kuenzler, Psy.D., Licensed Psychologist, President and CEO

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