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Dear Neighbor,

The collective human cry of grief and outrage in response to the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, MN continues to inspire public protests and demonstrations in communities across the country.

Closer to home, the city of Denver has ongoing nights of National Guard-supported curfews, through Friday morning, intended to reduce the potential for violence and destruction of property in the afterhours of legitimate protests.

Concerns about persistent and systemic racism, violence against people of color, excessive use of force by law enforcement, and suppression of the First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful assembly are among the issues moving people to speak out and act, both individually and collectively.

As these protests reflect, a diverse array of people across the country are intensely distressed at a time when many were already experiencing emotional turmoil in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on our daily life and wellbeing. The turbulence on a social level is palpable as evidenced by news reporting and postings on social media.

Yet, no matter how distressing or divisive these issues may be on a broader social or political level, Aurora Mental Health Center is here to help individuals and families navigate through times of emotional pain toward an experience of healing and wellbeing. We do not discriminate.

Our mission states: Aurora Mental Health Center is deeply rooted in our diverse community, delivering state-of-the-art care impacting emotional wellbeing and addiction recovery.

One of our five organizational Core Values is: Honoring and respecting all persons. No exceptions.

We make no apologies for our commitment to inclusivity, social justice and equal access to treatment and care. We know of no other way to serve our community with integrity and trust. When people are at their most vulnerable, we welcome them with compassion and care. We share in one humanity.

The recent work of our Colorado Refugee Wellness (CRW) team illustrates our commitment in a real and tangible way. Since COVID-19 reached our community more than two months ago, the team has demonstrated amazing creativity in serving our local refugee and immigrant communities in 17 different languages!

As you may appreciate, non-English speakers often don’t know about or can’t access services without assistance. These communities are disproportionately affected by the pandemic in terms of both health and employment impacts. The mental health needs have soared.

In response, the CRW team has facilitated Social Support Circles in multiple languages to help decrease social isolation, enhance resilience and connect people to local healthcare providers and other resources.

This is but one example of our commitment to you, as fellow members of our diverse and caring community. Our staff are conversant in more than 40 different languages and individuals represent the diversity of our community in virtually every meaningful way. As the global charity anthem puts it, “We are the world.”

I realize that many of you are actively engaged in watching out for others, offering a word of support or expression of care, speaking to injustice when you see it occur, assuring those who might otherwise feel marginalized or excluded. I ask you to continue to stand with us for the rights of all people and with a voice of compassion and understanding as we navigate together these challenging times globally, nationally, and here in Aurora, close to home.

I continue to reference the late Fred Rogers in these messages, and it’s for good reason. We must practice the basics of human decency if we are to embrace and experience our common humanity. I can’t imagine a more important time for each of us to take every opportunity to extend the humble invitation of the Mister Rogers theme songPlease, won’t you be my neighbor?

Your grateful neighbor,

Kelly Phillips-Henry, Psy.D, MBA
Chief Executive Officer
Aurora Mental Health Center
KellyPhillipsHenry@aumhc.org