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LARRK Foundation Gives $1M for Perinatal to Five Mental Health

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Sarah Satterwhite

Senior Editor, Strategic Content and Storytelling

Announcement  •

The University of Denver today announced a $1 million grant from the LARRK Foundation toward establishing a faculty chair in perinatal to five mental health within the Graduate School of Professional Psychology (GSPP).

In helping to establish the chair, the foundation’s generosity will support research, teaching and programs that focus on mental health in expecting caregivers and families with young children ages birth through five. In addition to supporting the faculty position, this grant stands as an opportunity for other individuals and foundations to supplement the foundation’s generosity, with a goal of meeting the $3 million threshold of endowing the faculty chair. If that threshold is not met with additional funds, the foundation’s grant will broadly support the work of the perinatal to five mental health specialty.

From expecting families facing increased stressors while preparing for a baby to children five and under who are learning to establish secure relationships and explore their environment, the mental health needs of this population are significant. Timely prevention and intervention by trained specialists, particularly working with underserved populations, are critical factors in promoting healthy psychological development.

“The LARRK Foundation’s partnership allows GSPP to expand mental health research, education and services for the youngest families in our communities,” said Chancellor Jeremy Haefner. “By providing funding to help advance an expert faculty member’s work in this area, the foundation’s grant will create impact for many years to come, deepening DU’s commitment to the public good.”

Established in 2016 by a generous grant from the LARRK Foundation, GSPP’s perinatal to five mental health specialty has grown significantly over the past few years. The leadership of Tracy Vozar, who joined DU in October of 2017, and an increased focus on implementing direct services, applied research, and community programs supporting the healthy psychological development of the youngest among our underserved populations have greatly contributed to the strength of the specialty. 

“Dr. Vozar and the perinatal to five mental health specialty are changing lives among the most vulnerable in our community,” said Louisa Jornayvaz, LARRK Foundation trustee. “In making this grant toward the endowed chair, the LARRK Foundation hopes to strengthen their research and service in mental health to help even more families. The excellence of GSPP’s work is because of the greatness of DU, and their work is here to serve all of Colorado.”

GSPP and the perinatal to five mental health specialty are addressing the growing need for high quality services for caregivers and young children by significantly increasing the number of GSPP graduates trained in this field, generating new applied knowledge, and supporting interdisciplinary partnerships that promote health and wellbeing for young children and their caregivers.

“This grant from the LARRK Foundation demonstrates a visionary partnership with GSPP and provides the resources to dramatically strengthen our work in the field of infant and early childhood mental health,” said Shelly Smith-Acuña, dean of GSPP.

The LARRK Foundation is a private family foundation that partners with grantees to serve the most vulnerable youth in Colorado. The foundation focuses on providing at-risk youth the programs and initiatives to help them create a healthy and hopeful future.