‘ACT’ Summit to Address Mental Health Needs, Aug. 31-Sept. 2

By Eric Heinz

A free, three-day summit to address mental health for children and families will take place Aug. 31-Sept. 2 in the Hydro building of the CSU Spur campus at the National Western Center. The 2023 Active Collective Trauma (ACT) Community Summit is organized by the nonprofit Public Health for Public Safety (PHPS) to continue to explore the causes of and address traumas within communities of color.

“Basically it’s a network of organizations that are coming together to be able to provide the services and resources for communities that are in need, are under-resourced, over-policed and … are overlooked,” said Rey Gee, who is the co-chair of the leadership committee for the ACT summit. People will be able to check out various mental health resource opportunities during the summit, and every day will have a theme. The summit runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day at the Spur campus, 4777 National Western Drive.

DISCOVERY: CULTIVATING KNOWLEDGE (DAY 1, AUG. 31) Promote and elevate innate wisdom within communities and knowledge among professions and sectors to inform and cultivate shared understandings around active collective trauma. This will include a recap from the 2022 ACT Summit.

ENGAGEMENT: SOWING LEGACY (DAY 2, SEPT. 1) Apply community-centered decision making to address active collective trauma and elevate community voice to action. Share resources, opportunities, and skills to cultivate healers and activists in communities.

TRANSFORMATION: HARVESTING CHANGE (DAY 3, SEPT. 2) Cultivate a platform for community leaders, dwellers, healers and activists to access consistent supports and services to sustain healing and community-driven systems change. There will be a barbecue, live music and more.

Gee said the summit will also feature “culturally relevant” options for mental health that will include options outside traditional therapy that are more suited to the community.

This could include sweat lodges, drum circles and other methods. Meredith Henry, a senior community health promotion specialist with Arapahoe County, became involved with the ACT Summit after learning about it last fall.

“We need to take care of children and we need to take care of families,” Henry said. “It’s those traumas and negative impacts that happen to people when they are children that really leads them to homelessness and a life of substance abuse and incarceration.”

Henry said the originality of the summit’s approach to spreading more information about mental health inspired her to think differently about how to be effective in getting resources to underserved communities.

“I was just blown away by these public health solutions and how we address the needs of children, families and communities,” Henry said. “I’m not going to come up with those ideas sitting behind my desk. We need to do more work to engage with community and community leaders, and use the community voices to really implement innovative public health strategies that make a difference.“

PHPS has also put together survey reports on its website that detail issues people of color had faced with regard to law enforcement. The organization did recidivism studies, visited transitional housing programs and more to figure out why people were stuck in cycles of crime.

“We found that a lot of the reason behind these things going on in our communities was because of active collective trauma, generational traumas of that people (experience) as children,” Gee said. “We then turned our attention to the actual root cause of a lot of these criminal legal system struggles that we see a lot of. That in turn got us to go ahead and start focusing more on community traumas.”

To keep people involved, Gee said PHPS is looking to develop “react” sessions that would provide more information to people to prepare for the following year’s summit, keep younger people involved in developing their mental health and provide workforce opportunities, as well as offering classes on financial literacy and environmental health information.

More information and copies of the studies PHPS has put together can be found at phps-co.org

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