Federal disaster funds boost local mental well-being offerings

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The same type of federal disaster aid funding that helped following fires and floods in Colorado is being funneled to Routt and other counties to provide mental health resources for community members and workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The free assistance called Colorado Spirit, funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is available to anyone stressed or impacted because of the pandemic, said Megan Vilece, team lead through Mind Springs Health in Steamboat Springs. Vilece said the boost of extra employees, well-being services and targeted group classes is available through the end of June to help residents across Routt, Moffat, Grand, Summit, Eagle, Garfield, Pitkin, Jackson, Rio Blanco and Mesa counties.

Locally, Colorado Spirit is focusing its outreache to workplaces to offer free wellness trainings for employees.



“We are helping organizations to prioritize the well-being of their employees while they’re on the job and helping individuals recognize that we are all disaster survivors and are worthy of support,” Vilece said. “It is prioritizing mental health within the workplace, because that is a service that nobody else has been providing for free.”

The grant-funded crisis recovery initiative offers classes ranging from 20 to 60 minutes on such mental and emotional health topics as anxiety, stress, resilience, grief, healthy work/life boundaries, compassion fatigue, self-care and recognizing signs of depression.



The classes are available for any organizations from businesses and nonprofit groups to teachers during professional development days to healthcare workers and faith leaders. Some of the unique titles include: “Compassion Fatigue – How to Care When You Just Don’t Care,” “Flourishing in Stressful Times,” “Hold that Thought: Taking Control of Spiraling Thoughts,” “Looking Out for Number One: Relationships and Boundaries” and “Psychological First Aid for Teens and Young Adults.”

Colorado Spirit can provide talk therapy at no cost to anyone suffering from pandemic-related issues, such as stress or prolonged isolation.

“Sometimes just talking about the things that are bothering you is what people need especially if they are isolated,” Vilece said.

Three peer-based online support groups are currently available in the region for professional child care providers, seniors and long-haulers, or people experiencing chronic COVID-19 symptoms for a longer period of time. More information is available at mindspringshealth.org/colorado-spirit-initiative.

Organizers say the goal is to educate, inform and support pandemic survivors in solving problems, prioritizing needs and improving communication skills in order to empower survivors to advocate for themselves and cope with the many life changes brought on by the pandemic.

Specialists are available specifically for seniors, children and Spanish speakers. The service is confidential, and recipients can remain anonymous. The Colorado Spirit team in the 10-county region has so far assisted with 168 phone calls from individuals, 4,089 email contacts, 9,700 materials and 116 group presentations with a total of 29,529 participants.

Statewide, Colorado Spirit kicked off in June 2020 and has so far assisted more than 77,850 Colorado residents through phone conversations, emails and group classes, according to a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, which administers the initiative run by county-level mental health agencies.

Vilece said in the region, Colorado Spirit has heavily targeted nonprofits, businesses, county departments, schools and senior services facilities “in order to reach the kinds of individuals we have identified as being the most vulnerable populations … children, older adults, essential workers, the Latinx community and other marginalized populations, such as LGBTQ individuals.”