Wellness centers expand mental health access in Boulder Valley schools

Mental health is a persistent challenge for young people in Colorado. A 2021 survey of more than 100,000 young people in the state found that 40% experienced feelings of depression.1 Suicide is a leading cause of death for youth and young adults.2 Stark disparities exist for youth who are non-binary, transgender, or multiracial, all of whom are more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Access to mental health support remains a challenge due to barriers like cost, transportation, and a shortage of behavioral health providers.

To address the urgent need to bring mental health support to young people, Impact on Education established Wellness Centers in the Boulder Valley School District. The Wellness Centers operate out of retrofitted classrooms and are staffed by mental health professionals who offer support and resources to students. The space is designed for students to destress, seek help, and build tools to support their wellbeing. Mental health professionals offer triage support and refer students to a variety of community resources to meet their individual needs.

The first Wellness Center launched in 2022 at Monarch High School in response to the Marshall Fire, which affected thousands of families in the community, many of whom had to evacuate and some of whom lost their homes. The Wellness Center was established to meet students where they are with timely resources and support. In the center’s first year, 50% of the student body visited the space with concerns ranging from needing to take a break in a calm space to panic attacks and suicidal ideation.


Wellness Centers Results


of young people in Colorado experience feelings of depression.


of the student body visited the school-based Wellness Center in its first year.

1300 students made 7700 visits to a Wellness Center in Fall 2023.

Building on the success of the pilot program, Impact on Education recently expanded to six Boulder Valley high schools with support from Rocky Mountain Health Plans, a UnitedHealthcare company. The new Wellness Centers offer access to mental health support in some of the district’s largest schools. In the Fall 2023 semester, the Wellness Centers demonstrated strong results:

  • Over 7,700 visits by 1,300 students
  • Visits are demographically representative of the school population
  • Students who qualify for Free and Reduced Meals or have a 504 plan are more likely to visit the Wellness Centers
  • Students reported overall mood improvement
  • A majority of students would recommend the Wellness Center to a friend

Recognizing the importance of engaging families in supporting kids’ mental health, each school hosts events to educate parents and foster a holistic support system. In 2023, Rocky Mountain Health Plans and Impact on Education co-hosted a community town hall  focused on youth mental health. By bringing Wellness Centers to schools across Boulder Valley, Impact on Education and Rocky Mountain Health Plans are working to improve access to mental health support, foster resilience among students, and change the conversation on campuses and in the community about youth mental health.

An advocate’s perspective

“The wellness centers offer a reprieve from the demands of the school day where students have to be focused and diligent, but it’s also a physical retreat. Students are served and supported simply by being in the room. Many students access it simply as a place to relax and destress. Over time, they develop a relationship with me without noticing, and if a time comes when they experience higher stress and anxiety, or there is an emergent situation, we’ve already developed trust.

Teenagers are experiencing immense stress and anxiety around school and feeling pressure to do well academically. They feel overwhelmed managing school sports and activities or need support managing family dynamics and friend struggles. If we can teach them how to take a break, care for themselves, regulate their emotions and develop coping skills, then in the future we’ll have a community of functioning, well adults.

Impact on Education saw a problem and developed a tangible solution to address mental health where students are—in the schools. They are an innovative and collaborative partner for the school district, and I am so grateful for their support of our students.” 

Tess Amer, Mental Health Advocate at Fairview High School


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