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Mental Wellness in Mountain Communities

Beth Ganz, Executive Director, Katz Amsterdam Foundation

In late May 2019, mental wellness partners from mountain resort communities came together in Boulder, Colorado, at the invitation of the Katz Amsterdam Foundation.

The foundation was created by Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz and his wife, Elana Amsterdam, to personally give back to communities with a Vail presence—and specifically to support mental health efforts.

There were seven of us there from Park City, representing Communities That Care, CONNECT Summit County, the Christian Center of Park City, Jewish Family Service, and Park City Community Foundation, all members of the Summit County Mental Wellness Alliance.

It was inspiring and illuminating to connect with people working on mental wellness efforts in other similar communities. The Katz Amsterdam Foundation helped us work together to identify an initial set of behavioral health challenges that mountain resort communities tend to share, such as:

Elevated risk factors and reduced protective factors

  • Harmful social factors—lack of social networks, party culture, social media, harmful exposure for youth
  • Economic vulnerability—housing, cost of living, and economic uncertainty depletes mental wellbeing
  • Stigma and mental health literacy—limited knowledge of mental health and stigma deter people from seeking help

Difficulty getting the right care at the right time

  • Short supply of providers—communities face a short supply of behavioral providers, especially Hispanic providers
  • Inaccessible care—affordability, geography, insurance, and navigation of services compound accessibility challenges
  • Fragmented services—consumers lack continuity of care as providers bridge geographic and systemic differences

We have also started a collaborative process of identifying potential shared measurements across mountain communities to help us track progress and increase community understanding of the issues and solutions.

Over the past three years, the Katz Amsterdam Charitable Trust has provided grants totaling over $1 million to support improvements in Park City and Summit County communities. Luckily for all of us, Rob and Elana are not stopping at financial support. Through the Boulder convening, they have started an enormously helpful process of connecting us across communities to work toward ever better awareness, prevention, and services to address our mental health and substance use challenges.

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