AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A popular health system is making it easier for patients to access mental health resources.
UCHealth launched the state’s first virtual behavioral health intensive outpatient program (IOP) in 2022 to help those experiencing mental health challenges and now it’s looking to expand its reach.
“Programs like this are so incredibly important because they increase access to effective care for individuals which is so crucial right now in our state,” Clinical Behavioral Health Therapist Mica Stone said.
Before the program launched, Stone said patients would be seen privately for in-person therapy.
The virtual IOP program consists of five different therapy groups, providing intensive treatment for those struggling with depression, anxiety, trauma, substance abuse and other mental health challenges.
Francie Kinney told FOX31 she was part of the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy group, which focused on trauma and emotion dysregulation. Additional groups include depression and anxiety, adolescent therapy, mental health and substance use and complex grief and trauma.
“Virtual for me was a game-changer,” Kinney said. “There’s something about being able to be in your own home that allows you to be more vulnerable and connect with people because you feel safe.”
The program includes virtual group therapy sessions for three hours, three times per week, for six to eight weeks.
“There’s commonality that we can all find and we’re able to lean on each other and learn from each others’ stories from week to week and also to celebrate each other’s successes,” Kinney said.
Stone said this program supports patients whose needs are not being met in a traditional outpatient setting, especially those at risk for hospitalizations or transitioning out of the hospital with mental health concerns.
“We’ve just seen amazing success and growth in our patients,” Stone said. “Throughout our program we see people be able to develop some insight and obtain support and skills they need to be able to manage not just their mental health but navigate their lives a little better.”
Stone said 87% of patients in the program have reported a decrease in distress and 77% have noted a decrease in depressive symptoms.
“After doing virtual therapy for a while, we now know that virtual and in-person models are really comparable in success and I would say definitely for some individuals, being able to access care virtually mitigates a lot of the potential barriers,” Stone said.
For patients like Kinney, having access to this program changed her life.
“When we’re sick, we go to a doctor, but when we are mentally unwell we don’t always realize that sometimes little band-aid patches aren’t going to work, you need to go all in,” Kinney said. “And for me, this was going all in.”
UCHealth leaders said they are looking to expand the program with additional therapy options.
Patients can be connected to the virtual IOP by their UCHealth provider or they can self-refer. For more information about the program call 970-266-4144 or 970-207-4805.