By Hailey Sams | SUN Intern
I Matter is offering free therapy for anyone under the age of 18, or under the age of 21 if receiving special education services.
“In the nearly three years I Matter has been serving youth, we have seen a trend of program usage rising when school is back in session,” Stefany Busch, media manager of the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) said in an email to The SUN.
I Matter has served 8,989 different youth through over 35,000 sessions, according to Paul Barnett, I Matter subject matter expert. The program has about 212 providers and licensed therapists, paid for and reimbursed by the BHA. It focuses on providing easy access help with low barriers.
How does the program work?
Having served almost 9,000 youth, seven of whom have been from Archuleta County, I Matter was created in October of 2021.
I Matter starts with a simple screening to help identify areas of risk, Barnett explained. Once the screening is complete, the first session can be scheduled. It can be either online or in person.
“They go through the screening so the therapist does have adequate information to start working with the kid,” Barnett said.
From there the sessions can be scheduled as needed, mostly stopping at six sessions. In the three years I Matter has been helping youth, 6,000 individuals have had three or more sessions, and few have gone past six, according to Barnett.
“We get the data on … what’s the outcome of the session in terms of, they rescheduled or they were referred to a higher level of care or if the kid or the parent felt like they were done,” Barnett said.
There are no clinical screenings or outcomes at the end of the sessions. I Matter can also refer to higher level services if needed and wanted.
Common struggles and challenges
Common struggles that I Matter has helped youth with include anxiety; depression; and social, school, and family challenges, according to Barnett.
He added the program typically sees a decrease in sessions during summer and holidays and an increase as school starts again.
“We advise families to keep kids connected,” said Barnett. “They can definitely take a break, but we definitely see a spike in needs around the time school restarts.”
For more intensive struggles, I Matter suggests using a private provider through insurance, Barnett noted.
“If it’s something that’s really a specialty, they would want to go with their insurance provider, Medicaid and look for that type of specialist,” Barnett said.
Back to school can be a stressful time for everybody, especially kids switching schools and getting back into learning, the organization’s website states. I Matter’s mission is to provide free and accessible help to youth in need.
I Matter is very accessible to families and kids, Barnett highlighted. The website is easily navigated and provides simple links, the screening can be done through a phone. I Matter sees this as a good way to stay in touch with youth and make it easy to reach out for help.
“Once they’re with a therapist, they can determine if they want to continue, you know, a kid might say, I want to see somebody else, that’s fine, they can switch to a new person,” Barnett explained, “Then the therapist would inquire about … when you want to see me again, that sort of thing and they would schedule. So they schedule the first session sort of on their own from the website after they pick somebody because they can see a profile and they can see the person’s picture and kind of what they like to focus on.”
I Matter finds its providers through the “licensed or licensed candidate therapists in the state,” Barnett explained, then the therapists are reached via email.
“I think it’s great,” Barnett commented, “I love what the General Assembly did with this and I appreciate we had yet another year of funding and, you know, I hope we have a chance to continue this and enhance it.”
To learn more about I Matter and to start the screening, visit https://imattercolorado.org/.