Introducing: Behavioral Health Equity Corps
The Health Education and Resources Institute (THEARI) is proud to announce exciting changes for our AmeriCorps VISTA program. The program, formally known as the Community Opioid Response Program (CORP), is now called Behavioral Health Equity Corps (BHEC). The new name is just one aspect of the changes this program has undergone to reflect a focus on substance misuse and its clear connection with behavioral health and existing barriers arising from systemic structures. These changes have been designed to address the immediate and long-term needs of Colorado communities.
Instead of a singular focus on opioid response, BHEC is a statewide initiative utilizing AmeriCorps members to support local communities throughout Colorado by implementing strategies to reduce the impact of substance misuse and overdose, increasing accessibility to behavioral healthcare, and outreach to Colorado’s LGBTQ+ populations.
Developed to address these needs, the BHEC team is now divided into four initiatives:
- Harm Reduction: This team works most closely with the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. Aside from building capacity, they are charged with training community volunteers on how to identify and respond to an opioid overdose.
- Criminal Justice: This team works most closely with the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and Jail Based Behavioral Health Services. They are charged with building partnership between public health and criminal justice systems and helping to increase the continuity of care for incarcerated individuals.
- Youth and Prevention: This team works most closely with Rise Above Colorado. They are charged with training community volunteers on using an interactive, engaging lesson to educate and empower teens about substance misuse.
- LGBTQ+ Outreach: This team works most closely with Envision:You and provides education, training, and resources to expand the availability of culturally affirming treatment services for LBGTQ+ individuals living with mental health and substance use disorders.
Lastly, we want to take a moment to talk about the new logo we created for the program. We wanted a logo which more accurately reflects the vision we have for BHEC while not forgetting the origins of the program. The purple and silver ribbon represents overdose awareness (silver) and opioid addiction (purple). The ribbon forming an infinity symbol represents the all-inclusive focus on addressing the connection between substance misuse and the four initiatives: harm reduction, criminal justice, youth and prevention, and LGBTQ+ outreach.
The BHEC program has grown from two AmeriCorps VISTA members to become a team of 18 members as of April 2021. BHEC will continue to strengthen communities and bring individuals out of poverty by connecting communities to health care resources, particularly those that have been trained in treating those with mental health and substance use disorders.