Spotlight on Chimney Trail Health: Transforming Veteran Behavioral Health with Innovation

At Points West Community Bank, we take immense pride in supporting local businesses making significant strides in their respective industries. Today, we are thrilled to spotlight Chimney Trail Health, a groundbreaking startup revolutionizing behavioral health support for the military, veterans, and broader society.

At Points West Community Bank, we take immense pride in supporting local businesses making significant strides in their respective industries. Today, we are thrilled to spotlight Chimney Trail Health, a groundbreaking startup revolutionizing behavioral health support for the military, veterans, and broader society.

The Inception of Chimney Trail

Matt Brown, a veteran himself, did not initially envision becoming the CEO of a behavioral health company. His career began at the Naval Academy in Maryland, followed by service as a Naval Officer and eventually as the Captain of a Navy ship in San Diego. His final role with the Navy was with Seal Team 17, where he engaged in innovative work that ultimately led to the founding of Chimney Trail Health.

“I was about nine months into what would be my final job with the Navy when I got a call from my previous ship. It turns out our best young officer, a kid that I thought was going to be Chief of Naval Operations one day, had gone to a store, bought a gun, and took his own life,” Brown recounted.

This tragic incident highlighted the urgent need for better mental health support within the military. Encouraged by the Navy Special Warfare leadership to explore solutions, Brown consulted top psychiatrists and psychologists, who consistently recommended teaching cognitive behavioral theory (CBT) as a preventive measure against destructive anxiety, depression, and suicide.

However, CBT was typically only accessible in a therapeutic setting. Brown’s challenge was to develop a way to teach these principles before individuals reached a crisis point. Collaborating with design schools, his team devised a unique delivery method: a mail-delivered product that incorporates adventure, experience, and humor to effectively teach CBT.

Brown’s vision was clear: make CBT accessible in a way that felt supportive and engaging, even for those who might be resistant to traditional therapy. The design schools highlighted three key elements for the product:

  1. Mail-Delivered Product: Receiving something in the mail, much like a thank-you note, creates a sense of being valued and anticipated.
  2. Adventure or Experience: Engaging in an unfamiliar environment helps to form indelible memories and makes the learning process more impactful.
  3. Humor: Incorporating humor helps to lighten the mood and make the experience enjoyable, even when dealing with serious topics.

The Start-Up Journey

Starting Chimney Trail Health was no easy feat. Brown and his co-founders initially funded the research themselves, spending years identifying the right modality to make a significant impact. They faced challenges in traditional venture capital markets, as their solution required a tangible product, not a simple mobile app, making it difficult to demonstrate quick user traction.

Despite these hurdles, a turning point came when they secured investment from Pentagon Federal Credit Union’s (PenFed) Veteran Entrepreneur Investment Fund. This initial support sparked interest from other investors, allowing Chimney Trail Health to bring their product to market.

Chimney Trail Health’s primary offering is a five-kit curriculum, called the Waypoint Set, delivered quarterly, that teaches participants about the ten cognitive distortions leading to anxiety and depression. Initially, they sold these kits directly to the Department of Defense, making them available to the military community. They also work with employers to offer the kits as employee benefits and leadership training tools. Eventually, they plan to make the Waypoint Kit available to anyone and everyone through direct purchase on their website.

The Waypoint Set is designed to be completed once every three months, giving users time to digest the material and apply the lessons learned. Each kit encourages participants to engage in outdoor adventures, either alone or with family and friends, to reinforce the principles of CBT in a practical, memorable way.

Broadening Impact on Society

While Chimney Trail Health started with a focus on military and veterans, their approach to mental health is universal. They have expanded their reach to include kits for employers, student-athletes, and families. The Waypoint Set was designed to be used by people of all ages. Not only can they be used by kids, but each kit is reviewed by leading childhood development experts to guarantee the clinical viability of the program. Their curriculum addresses mental health challenges across various demographics, ensuring that everyone can benefit from learning about cognitive distortions and how to manage them.

Chimney Trail Health has contracts with Fortune 100 companies, demonstrating the broad applicability and effectiveness of their program. Their employer kits are used as employee benefits and leadership training tools, helping to foster healthier workplaces. Additionally, they have developed specialized kits for student-athletes, addressing the unique mental health challenges faced by young sports participants.

Despite these successes, Chimney Trail Health remains committed to ensuring that the local community also has access to their program. They are actively working to make their innovative mental health solutions available to local businesses and individuals in their home base of Fort Collins, Colorado.

Finding Community Banking with Points West

After leaving the Navy, Brown decided to establish Chimney Trail’s headquarters in Fort Collins, Colorado, a burgeoning ecosystem for startups. Like many new businesses, Chimney Trail initially considered banks like Silicon Valley Bank for their appetite for risk. However, the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed the limitations of large banks. When seeking economic relief through loans, Brown found that larger banks did not prioritize smaller clients like Chimney Trail, leaving his calls unanswered.

A turning point came when a friend recommended Points West Community Bank. Royce Danford from the Fort Collins office reached out personally to discuss community bank lending options. This level of personalized service was a stark contrast to Brown’s previous experiences.

“We’re not what you would consider a ‘start-up bank,’” Danford said. “But we have a facility, business products, we’re flexible, and we have people that care.”

This personal touch and commitment to customer service convinced Brown of the value of community banking. “You can have different banks for different things, but the continuity that Points West Community Bank provides for us in terms of executing payroll and access to financial instruments is invaluable,” Brown reflected.

Danford’s proactive approach ensured that Chimney Trail had access to essential financial tools and support. The relationship with Points West allowed Chimney Trail to navigate the economic challenges posed by the pandemic, securing necessary loans and maintaining financial stability.

Chimney Trail Health exemplifies how innovative thinking can address critical needs in mental health. By partnering with community-oriented institutions like Points West Community Bank, they are well-positioned to expand their impact, helping veterans and others lead healthier, more resilient lives. At Points West, we are proud to support such transformative work and look forward to seeing Chimney Trail’s continued success.

Chimney Trail’s journey from a novel idea to a pioneering mental health support system underscores the importance of community support, innovative thinking, and the willingness to tackle complex challenges. As they continue to grow, Chimney Trail Health stands as a beacon of hope and a testament to what can be achieved with determination, collaboration, and the right support.

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