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Rocky Mountain Health Plans matches City of Grand Junction investment with $500k toward innovative student loan repayment initiative

The City of Grand Junction and Rocky Mountain Health Plans announced a $1 million dollar community collaboration with Colorado Mesa University to support the future of mental health services in Grand Junction.  

The announced city investment of $500,000 is from the municipality’s American Rescue Plan Act funds. This funding is dedicated to assisting graduates of CMU's Masters of Social Work (MSW) program in repaying their student loans. The city’s prioritization of expanding mental health services was matched by Rocky Mountain Health Plans (RMHP). The collaboration  between the city, RMHP and CMU marks on one of the most significant educational investments in recent memory meant to address ongoing shortages of mental health and social service providers in the community. 

“We are honored to support Colorado Mesa University’s Master of Social Work (MSW) Student Loan Repayment Program to help eligible graduates pay back student loans and launch their career right here in the Western Slope,” said Patrick Gordon, CEO, Rocky Mountain Health Plans. “This shared commitment alongside the City of Grand Junction and CMU will help expand access to mental healthcare in the Grand Junction area by attracting and retaining highly-skilled mental health professionals.” 

The announcement was made during a roundtable discussion at the university, and was a community conversation around the challenges of mental health services in rural areas that included CMU President John Marshall, RMHP CEO Patrick Gordon, Mayor Anna Stout, Council members Randall Reitz, Abe Herman, Cody Kennedy, and CMU's Dr. Michelle Sunkel, director of the MSW Program, CMU MSW student Jamie Moats and Marrie Hibbard, LCSW clinician. 

Marshall and Gordon highlighted the profound impact of this initiative, emphasizing the ripple effect of empowering social workers to improve countless lives across the region. 

“Anybody who has been in this community for any amount of time knows that one of the leading leaders in this community for decades has been Rocky Mountain Health Plans,” said President John Marshall. “The number of lives that are going to be impacted in a positive way because of the contributions the City and Rocky are making is really staggering. It’s not just the individuals getting the loan assistance, but the number of lives that those people will touch. The multiplier is monumental.”  

By facilitating education and placement for MSW graduates, the program aims to build a stronger, more accessible mental health care system. The roundtable underscored the program's potential to enhance the community's well-being. With contributions from Grand Junction Mayor Anna Stout and City Council members, the discussion explored broader applications of the American Rescue Plan Act funds, highlighting housing, homelessness, and mental health as key focus areas. 

“For me, mental health and behavioral health has always been very personal. It’s been my profession, my life pursuit, and trying to think how to use one-time funds to really advance the mental health of our community and it just made complete sense for us to partner with CMU with their new MSW program to find ways to keep their graduates in town,” said GJ City Councilman Randall Reitz.  

This collaborative effort represents a forward-thinking approach to using one-time funds for sustainable impact, emphasizing the importance of keeping graduates local to serve the community's needs. 

“We’re thrilled to be able to continue to fulfill these kinds of partnerships that are truly focused on what western Colorado needs and with that, thank you to City Council and to Rocky for your leadership," said Marshall.


Written by David Ludlam