Support for Colorado LGBTQ mental health in focus after deadly shooting

Following the deadly shooting in Colorado Springs, concerns over the well-being of Colorado’s LGBTQ community have been a statewide focus this week as state leaders were quick to condemn the attack and offer words of support. 

 

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“This is horrific, sickening, and devastating,” said Governor Jared Polis in a statement Sunday. “My heart breaks for the family and friends of those lost, injured, and traumatized in this horrific shooting. I have spoken with Mayor Suthers and made it clear that every state resource is available to local law enforcement in Colorado Springs.

We are eternally grateful for the brave individuals who blocked the gunman likely saving lives in the process and for the first responders who responded swiftly to this horrific shooting. Colorado stands with our LGTBQ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy as we mourn together.”

Colorado’s Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) has opened a community resource event in Colorado Springs to provide mental health support and other social services to those affected by the tragedy. 

Being held at the UCCS Kevin W. O’Neill Cybersecurity & Research Center in Colorado Springs, the event is closed to the media and designed to be a safe space for all community members to gather, grieve, and receive emotional support. 

“In accordance with our values of truth, equity, and community-informed practice, the Behavioral Health Administration stands against violence, hate, and dehumanization in all its forms,” said BHA Commissioner Morgan Medlock in a statement on social media Monday. “We mourn with our LGBTQIA+ community and everyone impacted by this tragedy. The BHA remains focused on its mission of co-creating a people-first behavioral health system that meets the needs of all people in Colorado.”

BHA is in the process of developing its strategic vision on mental healthcare access as part of its priorities for systemic transformation. Access to mental healthcare has been an area of policy concern in Colorado, with 41.8% of LGBTQ+ adults reporting not being able to get mental health services when needed, according to a report by the Colorado Health Institute (CHI) released earlier this year. The study found that 58% of LGBTQ+ Coloradans reported having poor mental health. 

“One major barrier to mental healthcare is lack of providers who are trained for and responsive to LGBTQ-specific issues,” read the CHI report. “According to the 2020 Healthcare Equality Index by the Human Rights Campaign, just 6 health facilities in Colorado score 80% or higher on measures of equity and inclusion of LGBTQ patients and employees. Other sources, such as the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, list many LGBTQ-competent providers, but the vast majority work only in the Denver-metro area.

This suggests the need for legislation or shifts in clinic and hospital procedures to provide resources and training to health care providers and staff, so that they may meet the unique needs of LGBTQ+ individuals and other racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual orientation minorities.”

Anna King, a proud member of the LGBTQ community and licensed social worker in Colorado Springs, is offering 5 free therapy sessions to members of the community affected by the events of Saturday night. 

“Specifically for the LGBTQ community, access to safe, accepting and competent providers is needed,” King told State of Reform. “The state could assist by providing a listing of identified LGBTQ providers, those with specialized training, and allies.”

King and her mental health colleagues in Colorado Springs are offering free support services during this challenging time. The Center of Colfax, the largest LGBTQ community center in the Rocky Mountain region, has listed a directory of local queer identified and allied therapists who are scheduling pro bono sessions for locals. 

The community of Colorado Springs has come together to assist the collective victims of Saturday’s violence through organized events and support groups. 

Colorado Gives has established a fund supporting the victims and their families with immediate and long-term assistance for their financial, emotional, and physical needs. A series of community-led vigils have been scheduled over the Thanksgiving weekend to honor and remember the 5 lives that were lost and address the trauma inflicted on the queer community in what has been formally charged as a hate crime. 

The Restorative Rainbow Alliance will hold a virtual community processing circle on Wednesday for LGBTQ+ youth and allies in Colorado Springs.

Colorado Community Health Alliance (CCHA), the regional Medicaid organization for El Paso County, has posted resources to crisis services for its members impacted by the shooting including a hotline to connect confidentially with a counselor