Published: Nov. 29, 2019

A University of Colorado Boulder center that in its 17 years of operation helped more than 2,100 Coloradans affected by bipolar disorder will close its doors in May 2020.

Earlier this month, the Robert D. Sutherland Memorial Foundation concluded that the current funding model of CU Boulder’s Sutherland Bipolar Center is no longer sustainable.

The Sutherland Center, housed on campus and supported by private funds, has provided diagnostic evaluations, evidence-based psychotherapy (individual, family and group), medication management, healthy lifestyle coaching, and community education to people regardless of their ability to pay for services. 

The Sutherland Center has also helped to train the next generation of clinical psychologists, providing intensive training to 38 graduate students and post-doctoral therapists.

The RDS Foundation has remained the primary funder of the Sutherland Center, providing approximately 80% of the center’s operating budget.

Psychology graduate students at the RDS Center discuss bipolar treatment options.

Psychology graduate students at the RDS Center discuss bipolar treatment options.

“We have worked tirelessly, applying for grants from foundations, hosting fundraising events, and nurturing relationships with potential and repeated donors. Despite our dedication and hard work, we have struggled each year to raise enough money to support the essential operations of the center. Without adequate funding from the RDS Foundation, the Sutherland Center cannot continue to effectively provide treatment to our community members who are impacted by bipolar disorder,” said the clinic’s director, Alisha Brosse.

The center is primarily funded through the Robert D. Sutherland Memorial Foundation and also receives funding through a CU Boulder Outreach Award. The announcement came as a shock to many people in the community. 

“What sad news we have received from you today. The Sutherland Center fills such an important role in this community,” said Cindy Cohagen, director of community relations & philanthropy at Mental Health Partners, Boulder County’s main source of mental health services.  Another psychotherapist echoed the sentiment, calling the closure “enormously sad.” 

One client at the Sutherland Center said, “It is the only place in the country to get affordable, full, specialized bipolar services, to have a chance to have a manageable life, to thrive and to get back to a normal life.”

In a statement, the RDS Foundation board said it was still very committed to the mission of improving the lives of people impacted by bipolar disorder and is exploring new ways for the nonprofit to be viable beyond May 2020. 

“We welcome anyone in the community who would like to assist our board as we ‘re-group’ and restructure our program,” said Rachel Cruz, RDS Foundation executive director.

The RDS Foundation was established in 2001, and the clinic opened its doors in 2002, to honor Robert D. Sutherland Sr., a successful businessman and philanthropist who had bipolar disorder.

The center is affiliated with the CU Boulder Raimy Psychology Clinic, which has been providing affordable psychological treatment for over 40 years to adults in the Boulder County area. 

The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience maintains the Raimy Clinic as a training site for graduate students in the clinical psychology PhD program. Graduate student therapists provide therapeutic services and are supervised by licensed psychologists and other experienced mental health professionals.