'Rotary Connects' provides cellphones to assure continuing mental health care
When community mental health centers moved to “telehealth” because of COVID-19, some clients had no means to connect for their mental health care, despite the common perception that “everyone has a cell phone today.”
Rotarians for Mental Health, R4MH.org, an advocacy coalition of District 5450 Rotary clubs, took action. The group obtained $20,000 as a Disaster Response Grant from The Rotary Foundation.
The result is Rotary Connects – a new program providing cell phones to vulnerable clients and connecting them to their therapists and prescribers at nine Colorado mental health centers. These centers provide hope and support to individuals struggling with mental health issues and substance abuse disorders in the Denver seven-county metro area. Also beneftting are mental health clients in Clear Creek, Gilpin, Grand, Morgan, Summit and southern Weld counties.
All of these centers can use Rotary Connects money to help identified clients buy smart phones or plan minutes. Some cell phone companies are offering deeply discounted phones and services for this purpose.
Curt Harris is governor of District 5450 with its 61 clubs. He said, “I am very proud of Rotarians for Mental Health and the many clubs in our district that are responding to this pandemic with compassion, generosity and inventiveness. Rotary Connects certainly meets a critical need of some of the most vulnerable members of our communities.”
Hans Wiik, a co-chair of Rotarians for Mental Health and member of the Rotary Club of Boulder, explains the origins of the project: “The therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists at Mental Health Partners, serving Boulder and Broomfield counties, became acutely aware of this need when clients could not be reached after clinic sites closed due to COVID-19. They needed to connect to clients to confirm appointments, conduct therapy, approve medication refills or schedule lab work as required with certain medications.”
He added, “To support clients’ various therapy-related needs and also for connecting to other resources in the community -- crisis lines, transportation, shelters, food pantries -- phones became essential.”
The need was the same for the other mental health centers, which include AllHealth Network, Aurora Mental Health Center, Centennial Mental Health Center, Community Reach Center, Jefferson Center for Mental Health, Mental Health Center of Denver, Mind Springs Health and North Range Behavioral Health.
Though crisis centers remained open, these centers closed for routine visits in March. The centers, especially those with walk-in services for assessment and support, recognized the immediate isolation of clients without smart phones.
Rotary Connects addresses this need, although the need exceeds its available resources. Rotarians for Mental Health encourages others to offer additional support to meet this urgent need.
Sarah is a case manager at Mental Health Center of Denver. She shared this account: “One of my clients was extremely grateful for the phone. I am also extremely grateful, as I now have a way to contact this person. It’s made delivering medications and doing wellness checks much easier. Staying in contact is more important than ever right now, and we wouldn’t have been able to do this without the phone. Please give the donor a big thank-you from me.”
Rotarians for Mental Health has 19 member clubs in the Rotary district. It is best known for its annual mental health symposium, held in connection with the Denver Southeast Rotary Club’s State of the State Luncheon. This year’s symposium focused on suicide prevention. The organization also encourages clubs to adopt mental health projects.
Rotary’s motto is “Service Above Self.” Rotarians for Mental Health demonstrates that through Rotary Connects. Individual clubs in the district also are responding to the pandemic and community crisis, many supporting local food banks.
The Rotary Foundation provided $4 million of grants to districts, which could receive a maximum of $25,000 each and choose how to allocate it. District 5450 prioritized mental health needs. Rotarians for Mental Health received $20,000 and created Rotary Connects. Another $5,000 went to Colorado Crisis Partners, a statewide, 24/7 crisis intervention system that gives Coloradans greater access to crisis services, including telehealth, regardless of their ability to pay.
TOGETHER WE ARE MAKING A DIFFERENCE!
Rotarians for Mental Health brings together resources and information from Rotary Clubs with the purpose of bringing awareness and taking action around mental health and substance use disorders.
We’ve created this site just for you! We encourage clubs who are already doing projects in the mental health field to tell us about them. We want to share them with other clubs who might be inspired. If you’re stumped at the “how-to,” follow the links below for project coordinators and tips.
Here are examples of club projects. . . the Club Projects tab has more:
• Boulder Rotary: This club has focused sharply on changing the conversation around mental health, both within the club and in the community. They created a Mental Wellness Initiative in 2015, and have concentrated their significant energy on projects, speakers, and programs ever since.
• Boulder Valley Rotary: The club provides “scholarships” to clients participating in the Mental Health Partners culinary, custodial and office skills job training programs. The stipends cover meals and uniform cleaning.
• Castle Pines Rotary: This Rotary Club has had a long interest in mental health issues as evidenced by collaboration with the suicide prevention efforts spearheaded by our
• Cherry Creek Rotary:
• Commerce City Rotary: Members have devotedly distributed more than 30,000 mental health and awareness cards in their community. They know these cards have saved lives. The cards contain crisis centers and phone lines.
• Denver: Known fondly as Club 31 (the 31st club formed in Rotary), this club has been a leader in what began as Rotary Mental Health Initiatives and is now Rotarians for Mental Health. One of their many approaches to education on mental health was “fellowship meetings” on mental health topics – including the sharing of personal stories.
• Denver Mile High: They teach BrainWise, a neurocognitive development program to high-risk teens and others.
• Golden Rotary: Here’s another club strongly focused on mental health. They sponsored classes in Mental Health First Aid in their community in partnership with the Jefferson Center for Mental Health. They also organized a community wellness fair.
Awards to clubs doing great work in mental health
The R4MH 2018-2019 Award
Dave Gardener, Diana Fields and Bill Farrow presented this year’s Rotarians for Mental Health Award to the Boulder Rotary Club for their work the past two years on mental health community education events at the Jewish Community Center. Accepting the award were Diana Sherry, chair of the club’s Behavioral Wellness committee and Gary Kahn, who put videos of most of the 2018 events onto YouTube. The award included a $750 donation towards their next mental health project.
The Boulder Club co-hosted nine events with a total attendance over 1,500. Feedback from attendees was consistently positive. Boulder Community Health, Mental Health Partners and both the Boulder Club and the Boulder Valley Club were recognized at each event and had display tables.
For 2018 the Rotary Club of Denver Southeast received the first-ever R4MH award for their work on the annual State of the State/Mental Health Symposium events.
The Hayes Family Mental Health Award
The 2019 Hayes Family Mental Health Award goes to the Rotary Club of Summit County for its partnership with a grass-roots mental health initiative called Building Hope Summit County. A new member class of eight led the way, producing brochures providing education on mental health, aiming to reduce the stigma. The award includes $2,000 for future work in the mental health field.
This district award was created by the family of the late Mike Hayes, avid Rotarian and PDG, in his honor. The award recognizes and supports an outstanding new project addressing depression, anxiety and/or addiction.
For 2018 the Rotary Club of Commerce City received the first-ever Hayes Family Mental Health Award. Commerce City's project was Just for Veterans and Their Families: Embracing Needs and Removing Barriers. Their goal for a new project was to deepen connections with the veterans community, teaching Mental Health First Aid and providing other educational activities.