Outreach and Engagement Highlights
Stable Ground for Bipolar Disorder: Sutherland Center Is Changing Lives for Patients and Families
“The Sutherland Center saved my life.” Coleen Matlock* has uttered these words many times since seeking services at the Robert. D. Sutherland Center for the Evaluation and Treatment of Bipolar Disorder at the University of Colorado Boulder.
Matlock’s life completely changed nearly 20 years ago when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a chronic illness characterized by recurring episodes of extreme highs (mania) and extreme lows (depression).
A Patient’s Perspective
“Before my illness I was a busy single mom working and going to school,” she said. “After my illness, I was thrust into the county mental health system. Doctors and therapists changed so often they didn’t know who I was, let alone who I used to be.”
After the company she worked for closed, Matlock’s depression and manic episodes worsened. At times she was hospitalized and even jailed as a result of manic episodes. In 2003, she was in jail when her father died, an experience that deepened her sadness. One month later, Matlock and her son attended a talk about bipolar disorder where they were given information about the Sutherland Center.
“I called the number on the card and I was soon talking to Dr. Alisha Brosse from the Sutherland Center,” Matlock said. “She explained the services that they provided, and I explained what I had been going through. I believe my dad led me to the RDS Center.”
After that momentous connection, Brosse, a clinical psychologist and associate director for the center, evaluated Matlock and they began weekly treatment sessions, which included Matlock’s adult children and husband. Matlock’s relationship with Brosse and the center has made all the difference.
“She (Brosse) listens. She treats me like a human being rather than just another client,” Matlock said. “I finally felt like I was being heard.”
A Low-cost Route to Recovery
Bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed and misunderstood, Brosse said. The National Alliance for Mental Illness estimates more than 10 million Americans suffer from bipolar disorder. There is no cure, but the disorder can be managed.
“We put the pieces of the puzzle together,” Brosse said. “We identify a symptom or issue that is leading to pain or decreased quality of life or functioning. Then the next step is looking at what we can do to intervene.”
The Sutherland Center was established by the Robert D. Sutherland Foundation to provide expert psychiatric and psychological care to individuals and families with bipolar disorder who are unable to pay for services in the community. Since opening its doors in 2002, the center has served nearly 1,200 patients, their families, and community members.
The Sutherland Center’s namesake, Robert D. Sutherland, was a charismatic businessman and philanthropist who suffered from bipolar disorder but was able to stabilize his illness with quality treatment. After his death, his family established the foundation to honor his legacy of helping others. The foundation has gifted more than $1 million to the center over the past 11 years, and the center has also been supported by grants from the CU-Boulder Outreach Committee.
“(Robert D. Sutherland) benefited from having the financial means to access treatment, so family and friends wanted to create a center that provides services on a sliding-fee scale,” Brosse explained. “We primarily serve patients and patients’ families who can’t afford services elsewhere.”
A Healthier Life