“That’s a cool sweatshirt,” she said. Adam said thanks. The girl walked away for a moment to get his order and then returned. He remembers that her head was down as if she was trying to maintain composure. Suddenly she looked up at him.
“That place saved my life,” she said.
The girl behind the counter at Culver’s didn’t know anything about Adam Roberts. She didn’t know he was the CEO of Diversus, or that he spends every day pouring all his energy and passion into his job and the people who work for him. She didn’t know anything about his stress, his ups and downs, or the vision that drives him. All she saw was a dad in a sweatshirt bearing the logo of the place that kept her alive.
“I walked back to my car and I got in and I just started crying,” Roberts said. “My wife said, “What just happened, are you okay!?”
Driving on to the Diversus Health campus I was struck by how big the place is. Everything inside and out feels peaceful, well-kept, and unpretentious. Roberts and I sat in a small conference room for the interview. We chatted about 80s movies and his kids, who he said inspire him every day. He told me about his Mom, a hospice nurse and healthcare administrator who inspired him to pursue his career path, and his Dad, who taught him everything he knows about being a good husband and father. Adam said he has an amazing wife that is very supportive and loving and always there for him no matter what.
Despite the responsibility on his shoulders, his snappy tailored suit, and his role as leader of a huge organization that has a massive effect on the community, you could not meet a more regular guy. And it makes sense because that’s what Diversus is all about—helping regular people with something we all have in common: mental health.
The World Health Organization defines mental health as “a state of mental well-being that allows people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.”
“Our name really highlights the spirit that everyone is different,” Adam says. “It’s Latin-based and the word stands for differences. It’s a great representation of what we’re doing because everyone’s mental health struggles are different, and the reasons behind those struggles are very different for every person.”
Diversus has been a presence in Colorado Springs for over 148 years and has a long history of serving others. It provides care to thousands, as well as education and training in prevention.
Mental health care has typically not been at the forefront of health care in terms of support, funding, or research. But Roberts says, “I think today is a different day. It’s definitely a different day.” He goes on to describe a growing phenomenon: mental health has become mainstream, awareness has been raised, and people are discovering their wants and needs with regard to mental health.
“We took our little boy to his first day of preschool the other day,” Adam said. “I got a sense of fear from him. It was cute and sad, so I said ‘You’re gonna have a good day!’ and he goes: ‘Dad, can I just sit in the car a little longer and then go home and have a good day?’
We laughed about this, mostly because as adults we’d both felt that exact feeling many times on the way to work. Mental health is very often as simple as this. A fear. A tiredness. A desire to hide. This is one reason Roberts is so passionate about educating people about mental health.
“Think about how we grew up,” he said. “Wouldn’t it have been great to have a class on how to deal with your feelings? How to deal with difficult people. How to have a tough conversation. How to improve your critical thinking. How to tap into emotional intelligence. Math and Science and Geography are all good. But, man! Three or four of those classes in the junior high and high school years would be so helpful. Even in college. You go get a degree and then you have to go out in the real world and deal with humans. And some people do all those social things naturally, but many of us have to learn and sometimes learn in a really hard way. But what if you had a little prevention, a little help? It would make things a little easier.”
This connected with me. I struggled painfully to speak to other kids when I was young. Just to have that fear validated by a compassionate teacher or healthcare worker, and to be given the tools to deal with it, would have made a huge difference.
“Life is hard enough for people—no matter how much money you have, or where you grew up. Getting mental health care should be one of the easiest things you can do.”
Diversus Health serves all ages, from adolescents up to geriatric age, and their reach is wide, covering many different types of care. They focus on substance use disorders, outpatient clinical services like counseling and therapy, psychiatric care, and in-patient crisis work. And they have staff that functions at all those levels.
Roberts told me they also have a 24-hour crisis walk-in center. “At any time, anybody can go to that crisis walk-in center. To staff it and keep it going is challenging, but it’s powerful.”
“What are your goals for Diversus?” I asked. “What impact would you love to have on Colorado Springs in the coming years?”
“Provide the best care,” he replies. “Be more effective, more efficient. This organization has a rich, strong history of serving the community, and I want to carry that forward in an impactful, sustainable way. We may not be able to serve all those in need. But we try really hard to make a positive impact and there are many days when our organization saves a life. And I don’t know how you put a price on that.
In that moment at Culver’s, with that young lady being so vulnerable and open with me, I couldn’t be prouder of the organization I work at, the people I work with, and the work that I do. And to this day, it’s a constant motivator for me. That moment.”
Crisis Hotline: 844-493-8255
Text ‘TALK’ to: 38255
24/7 Walk-in Crisis Center at: 115 S. Parkside Dr. Colorado Springs, CO 80910