Equitable Behavioral Health Care
2022 Four Corners MSW Program grad Joel Berdie is developing a community-based model for behavioral health care
Joel Berdie is passionate about being in community. Since he graduated this spring from the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work Four Corners MSW Program, he is translating that passion into piloting a new integrated, community-based model for social work service delivery.
“I have noticed the ways that our community has gaps. I want to use my energy and passion to jumpstart a refreshed model of care that is accountable to the people, is inherently flexible and is going to be constantly evolving,” Berdie says. He is developing partnerships with local resource centers in Durango, Colorado, to deliver bilingual services to clients where they need them — whether that’s on the streets, in the client’s home, or in an office.
Services would range from individual counseling to crisis response and management, to outreach and case management. If a client needs help getting to a medical appointment, Berdie would transport them. If they need help navigating benefits, they’d receive that assistance, too. Berdie also aims to expand Durango’s existing community-based peer navigation resources. And, as a fluent Spanish-speaker, he will offer all services bilingually and in a culturally responsive way.
The goal, he says, is to provide more equitable behavioral health care for those who have been falling through the gaps in the region’s health care and social services systems, such as unhoused people and those experiencing poverty, Native Americans and immigrants, and people struggling with substance use.
“By pairing community-based behavioral health professionals with a peer-driven model of accountability, our community will begin to see culture change,” Berdie explains. “Not only will tangible wellness outcomes improve and partnering organizations’ work capacity increase, but a reformed and passionate dialogue will evolve about what it truly means to serve all members of our community.”
Joel Berdie received the 2022 William Bartholomew Memorial Award for his commitment to social justice, preservation of human dignity, and facilitating healing.Read More
Berdie has been interested in addressing social inequities since he was a child growing up in Golden, on Colorado’s Front Range. He noticed people who were unhoused, and that created “an emotional tug that something wasn’t right.” While pursuing a psychology degree at Tufts University, he studied abroad in Chile. “That’s where I was exposed to experiential-based learning and values of reciprocity in different cultures,” says Berdie. He went on to work as a bilingual case manager and team lead for the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless and then spent several months volunteering in Oaxaca, Mexico, providing microfinance and business education for Zapotec female entrepreneurs.
He relocated to Durango for graduate school and has made the community his home. There, he was a social work intern at the regional hospital, which doesn’t have a community-based follow-up team. “I had this powerful experience with someone but there was no follow-up,” Berdie recalls. “I saw the power of continuity through collaborative, community-based care. What would it mean for a hospital to refer people to a peer-based community care program?”
“That reminded me why I do the work and why I love it.”