In October of 2015, the idea for the National Mental Health Innovation Center was put to paper. The proposal to create a home for bold innovation in mental health was submitted to the Anschutz Foundation, which soon after generously funded the startup.

With the backing of Don Elliman, Chancellor of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Matt Vogl and Peggy Hill were named executive director and deputy director, respectively, and began assembling a small team and finding office space for the Center.

On Valentine’s Day 2016, NMHIC and its first five employees opened the doors of a new state-of- the-art facility on the Anschutz Medical Campus (under its original name National Behavioral Health Innovation Center). Organizationally, NMHIC became part of the Chancellor’s Office.

One month later, a six-member Board of Directors was formed and held its first meeting on the future of the Center.

Within two months, the small-but- growing NMHIC team was meeting with leaders from some of the most prominent foundations in the region and the nation to begin building partnerships that could transform the mental health landscape. In addition, the team was meeting with groups from three states and three countries, all interested in finding innovative approaches in behavioral health.

These early months were about “connecting the dots” – a theme for our first year, where challenges, resources and people started coming together via the NMHIC.

In just the first few months, projects began to take shape: consulting with the 18th Judicial District Problem Solving Courts on a potential Wellness Court to better adjudicate some mentally ill offenders; working with the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder to immerse mental wellness strategies in to business studies; and partnering with a community organization in Western Colorado to serve Latino mothers in a peer-to- peer mental wellness program. From students to emergency responders and immigrants, groups with unmet needs began to find NMHIC in their searches for innovative solutions.

By the summer of 2016, NMHIC staffers were presenting our vision for radical innovation to prominent organizations, and our connections grew beyond the state borders. To the world of movies, with a budding relationship with the filmmakers behind “Inside Out.” To Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab, at the center of virtual reality research. To the U.S. military, corporate America, and more.

With little more than one year of operations, the NMHIC has transformed from an inspirational idea, to a Center with multiple projects aligned with our strategy of using technology and real-life settings to expand mental health care access, improve outcomes and eliminate the stigma too often associated with mental illness.

With unexpected partners in non-traditional places, year one was just the beginning.