CU Anschutz Medical Campus

​One of the nation’s premier research and clinical centers for mood and anxiety disorders will be immeasurably bolstered by a $10 million grant from the Denver-based Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation, one of the largest program gifts in the history of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

This Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation commitment builds an endowment that will provide stable and perpetual funding ($400,000 the first year, likely more in later years) to support a broad array of mental-health program priorities. To honor this gift, the CU Board of Regents voted Friday to rename the seven-year-old center the Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Depression Center.

“The Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation has created new possibilities for the University of Colorado to provide mental health services and conduct critical research in our state and beyond,” said Bruce Benson, president of the University of Colorado. “CU has had a relationship with the Johnson Foundation since 1979 and we cannot thank them enough for recognizing and increasing the potential for the Depression Center to support a better quality of life for the citizens and communities CU serves.”

The Depression Center at CU Anschutz is at the forefront of increased national recognition of mental health as a major concern for individuals, families and communities. More than 1,000 Coloradans commit suicide each year, and the World Health Organization asserts that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide, affecting 350 million people.

Yet the severe impact of depression (which a recent Journal of Clinical Psychiatry study asserted costs the U.S. economy more than $210 billion a year) has been under-recognized due to historical stigma and incomplete understanding of the science of mental health—which Depression Center research, outreach and clinical care aims to rectify.

“The exceptional work being accomplished at the Depression Center is critical to the health and wellness of the people in our state, and the center’s efforts to eliminate the stigma and improve access to high-quality mental health services are commendable. Our family foundation is honored to help elevate the conversation about mental health in Colorado, and we hope this gift inspires greater giving and understanding,” said Lynn Campion, chairman of the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation Board of Trustees.

At the direction of Depression Center Executive Director Marshall Thomas, MD, funds from the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation grant will support programs in areas including:

Team-based, integrated clinical care

Patients of all ages are treated by 13 Depression Center clinicians including psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners and social workers. This team includes experts on aspects of behavioral health including medication management and evidence-based psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Person-Centered Therapy and Mindfulness. Treatment protocols integrate cutting-edge mental health research findings.

Telehealth

The center also continues to support their doctors and patients in real time.  Currently this is done through shared faculty positions working in multiple locations and through phone consultation. The center is in the early phases of utilizing a HIPAA-certified, web-based telemedicine platform to improve this service.

Outreach and education programs

Depression Center personnel provide their services free of charge throughout Colorado, including suicide prevention programing with partners ranging from the Denver School of the Arts to Chris Natzke Karate Studio. In addition, the Depression Center has developed a program to train businesses on how to recognize when an employee might be suffering from depression or anxiety and how to improve mental health services available to employees.

Research

The center conducts and participates in a wide range of research that improves the identification and treatment of mood disorders and prevents suicide. Faculty collaborate throughout CU and with agencies and universities across the U.S. to evaluate and develop novel approaches to care, such as improving treatment of adolescent bipolar disorder and postpartum depression, and developing new ways to identify people at risk for suicide.

“The Johnson Foundation has made an extraordinary commitment to mental health care in Colorado by investing in the Depression Center,” Marshall Thomas said. “Their support will help eliminate stigma and ensure the sustainability of our efforts to improve the lives of people with depression and bipolar disorder. We are proud the center will bear the Johnson family name.”

The Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation commitment establishes a cornerstone for the Depression Center’s effort to build a center endowment of $20 million, for which $14 million has been raised to date by the Depression Center’s Board of Directors and its Endowment Committee. Philanthropy has been fundamental to the history of the Depression Center, which has benefited from $8 million in gifts by George Wiegers since its 2008 launch.