Empowering People with Mental Illness at Colorado Recovery

Five percent of US adults experience serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Far too many do not receive treatment for their condition. Only around 45 percent of adults in the United States with a mental illness receive treatment in a given year, reports NAMI, and even a third of US adults with a serious mental illness remain without treatment in any given year.

And patients who do get treatment for their mental health concerns frequently do not have access to therapies that fully address their individual needs. Colorado Recovery opened its gates in 2006 as an independent treatment center in Boulder to start changing that. The goal was to create a non-hospital treatment center for people with serious mental illness that employed the most effective diagnostic and treatment methods and focused on respectful, compassionate, and optimistic care.

The Warner Model

“Recovery from mental illness is about more than just getting rid of the symptoms and staying out of hospital. It is about regaining a sense of identity, belonging, and meaning in life,” said the late Richard Warner, M.D. and founder of Colorado Recovery. 

Dr. Warner brought decades of psychiatric experience to Colorado Recovery. He had served as the medical director of the Mental Health Center of Boulder County, the public mental health facility for a population of nearly 300,000 people in the Front Range of Colorado, for 29 years until the fall of 2005. While at the Mental Health Center, Dr. Warner helped develop a comprehensive community support system for people with serious mental illness that earned him international regard. 

The Warner system includes a residential treatment program, a transitional program, and an intensive outpatient program, and a “clubhouse” community mental health service model.

“One of the things that I hold vital in recovery from serious mental illness is to have a productive role in which you feel what you are doing is an important contribution,” Warner told the Maria Rogers Oral History Program in 2013. If treatment professionals do not empower their patients by giving them roads to be productive, patients won’t perceive a positive meaning in life—a sense of belonging and community that can significantly improve treatment outcomes.  

People with major mental illnesses often require services beyond those available through conventional office-based psychiatric practices. Colorado Recovery offers residential treatment and intensive outpatient care for bipolar and schizophrenia in an assertive community treatment environment with a continuum of services to meet those needs. Intensive outpatient care is offered to clients who are at risk of relapse with standard outpatient treatment.  

Our seven day-a-week intensive services include frequent contact with the psychiatrist and therapist, daily medication monitoring, individual and group therapy, vocational and social rehabilitation through our psychosocial clubhouse and ongoing treatment planning involving the full outpatient team. A treatment plan is tailored to each client and is determined by the client in collaboration with the Colorado Recovery team. 

Many of our patients did not do well in prior treatment. Our mission is to help patients with serious mental illness find the road to recovery, feel better, and do well in life. The majority of our patients are diagnosed with a psychotic illness—we specialize as a schizophrenia and bipolar treatment center, in addition to helping clients with a schizoaffective disorder and other mental illnesses.  

Once patients are stabilized, they are encouraged to engage in a productive role. The Warner model at Colorado Recovery is based on the clubhouse model of psychosocial rehabilitation, which focuses on providing support and opportunities for people with mental illness. Clubhouse participants are called members as opposed to patients. The clubhouse model differs from a clinical program in that there are no therapists on staff but community organizers and vocational specialists instead. Within the clubhouse, member development focuses on strengths and abilities, rather than on illness.

Seventy-three percent of our clients achieve independent living after 6 months of treatment. We ensure that the quality of life in the independent living situation is high. A nice home with easy access to local facilities, a pleasant neighborhood, friends to live with, a clean and healthy environment and opportunities for a decent social life with indoor and outdoor recreational activities are the things that our case managers, our basic attendance staff and our psychosocial clubhouse aim to make possible.

Overall, the treatment program at Colorado Recovery aims to empower adults with mental illness, and those who support them, with an unrelenting optimism for recovery, purposeful involvement in the community, and an enhanced sense of meaning in life.

Our treatment facility provides the services needed to address schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other serious mental illnesses which are specific to each individual. Call us at 720-218-4068 to discuss treatment options for you or the person you would like to help.