Colorado Health Access Fund's Year-One Impact, Results of $2.2 Million in Grants Released in New Report

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$40 Million fund provided behavioral health services to 32,000 high-risk Coloradans; Sustainability, geographic reach vital to future success

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In its first year, the Colorado Health Access Fund distributed nearly $2.2 million to 28 grantees from across Colorado, serving 32,000 people.

On Thursday, March 16, The Denver Foundation and Colorado Health Institute jointly released “Building from the Baseline,” an evaluation of the Colorado Health Access Fund’s activity and impact in its inaugural year.

Founded at The Denver Foundation with an anonymous $40 million gift, the Colorado Health Access Fund (CHA Fund) seeks to increase access to behavioral health care statewide. From August 2015-September 2016, the CHA Fund distributed nearly $2.2 million to 28 grantees from across Colorado. “Building from the Baseline” is an analysis of results from that one-year period.

The complete report and executive summary are attached and also available online via

Prepared in partnership with the Colorado Health Institute (CHI), Colorado’s experts in health policy and evaluation, the analysis was designed to measure how well the CHA Fund is increasing access to behavioral health services across the state, and to measure how well it adheres to the donor’s intent. “Building from the Baseline” is the first of what will become an annual evaluation of the activity and impact of the CHA Fund.

“In sharing this analysis with the community, The Denver Foundation aims to be transparent about the Colorado Health Access Fund’s successes as well as challenges,” says Christine Márquez-Hudson, President and CEO of The Denver Foundation. “These findings will inform how we progress towards goals in 2017 and beyond. They also advance the Fund’s objectives by contributing to a collective body of knowledge on behavioral health programming in Colorado.”

Some key findings from the evaluation:

  • The Fund provided nearly 32,000 Coloradans with access to behavioral health services.
  • In partnership with a wide range of community-driven programs, the CHA Fund addressed varied, specific, and local needs. Examples include telehealth projects in rural communities in Salida and southeastern Colorado, which reduced geographic barriers to treatment; substance use disorder services for Denver Public Schools students, provided by Denver Health; behavioral health services offered to seniors, via Senior Resource Center; and services offered in multiple languages for non-English speakers at Clinica Tepeyac, Rocky Mountain Immigrant Action Network, and Jewish Family Services.
  • Donor intent is being met by supporting programs that serve Coloradans with high health care needs and who are at risk of facing barrier to care.

“We found that the fund is generally on track to meet its mission of expanding behavioral health care access to Coloradans with high health care needs,” says Jeff Bontrager, Director of Research on Coverage and Access for Colorado Health Institute. “But despite the overall positive findings, grantees did cite some recurring challenges like finding and retaining behavioral health staff and financing their programs.

“Based on our evaluation findings, we made some recommendations,” Bontrager continues. “The intent of those recommendations is to help meet the intent of the donor, and to help grantees be successful.”

Among CHI’s recommendations:

  • The Denver Foundation should place even greater importance on where the behavioral health demand and need is greatest.
  • The Denver Foundation should work to set up programs for success by encouraging grantees to plan for long-term sustainability. The majority of grantees will need to strengthen their long-term sustainability plan. The Foundation should consider strengthening its assessment of grantee sustainability and scalability.
  • Grantmaking should represent all parts of the state. The eastern plains are underrepresented at this time.

About The Colorado Health Access Fund
Providing behavioral health services in Colorado, especially in rural and underserved communities, is no easy endeavor. The Colorado Health Access Fund was created in 2015 with an anonymous $40 million gift as a Field of Interest fund at The Denver Foundation. The intent of the fund is to support programs/activities that generally increase access to health care and strive to improve health outcomes for populations in Colorado with high health-care needs. The fund will help to ensure health care services are equitably available to all Coloradans with high health needs by distributing the funds to organizations throughout the state. The Colorado Health Access Fund will distribute approximately $5 million per year through 2022.

Background: The CHA Fund’s Focus on Behavioral Health Care
Providing behavioral services in Colorado—especially in rural and underserved communities—is no easy endeavor. According to a 2014 analysis of the health care landscape conducted by the Colorado Health Institute and commissioned by The Denver Foundation, 15 of the 21 Colorado Health Statistic Regions included mental/behavioral health as a top local public health priority. Furthermore, mental and behavioral health care was cited as a community priority in every community dialogue conducted by CHI. Discussions with health and community foundations identified access to mental health and substance abuse as the most pressing issues statewide.
For these and other reasons, the Colorado Health Access Fund is focused on increasing access to behavioral health treatment.

Overall, the Colorado Health Access Fund seeks to:

  • Reduce and remove barriers for Coloradans with high behavioral health care needs in accessing behavioral health care treatment.
  • Build on innovations and investments already in place around behavioral health care treatment and support strategies for sustainability within the communities.
  • Support treatment solutions that will benefit and meet the needs of the local community, as well as explore how those solutions could be replicated and/or scaled to meet the needs of communities across the state.
  • Widely share solutions and approaches that improve access to behavioral health care treatment, as well as openly convey “lessons learned.”

About The Colorado Health Institute
The Colorado Health Institute is a Denver-based health policy research organization that believes better information leads to better-informed decisions—and a healthier Colorado. We are nonprofit and nonpartisan. We are a trusted source of independent and objective health information, data, and analysis for health care leaders. Funding comes from the Caring for Colorado Foundation, Rose Community Foundation, The Colorado Trust, and the Colorado Health Foundation. For more information, visit

About The Denver Foundation
The Denver Foundation is a community foundation that inspires people and mobilizes resources to improve life in Metro Denver. In 2015, the Foundation and its donors awarded more than $97 million in grants. The Denver Foundation has three roles: stewarding an endowment to meet current and future needs for Metro Denver, working with community leaders to address the core challenges that face the community, and managing more than 1,000 charitable funds on behalf of individuals, families, and businesses. For more information, visit

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Laura Bond
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