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December 31, 2012
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Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center recently announced that it has launched a centralized, round-the-clock toll-free help line for people dealing with a mental health crisis.

A toll-free call to 1-888-207-4004 will put callers in direct touch with a trained clinician who will listen, assist, evaluate and connect them to the right services in order to avert or manage a mental health crisis.

The emergency services number is staffed by trained mental health clinicians 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without exception.

Colorado West serves a 10-county area on the Western Slope, including Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties.

The help line was launched just a day after Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a five-point, $18 million plan to redesign and strengthen Colorado's mental health services and support system.

Tish Starbuck, vice president of Colorado West, said the timing of the two announcements wasn't planned.

"It just landed together," Starbuck said. "It shows we are all in alignment with what the governor is thinking and what needs to be done."

Starbuck said Colorado West has offered 24-hour crisis lines in all 10 Western Slope counties that it serves for years.

"What is new is, rather than these calls going to separate numbers in each county, they'll be coming to a central crisis center in Grand Junction," she said.

The trained crisis workers will screen the call and assess the situation, she said. If they determine the person on the line is an imminent threat, or if the caller is in imminent danger from someone they are calling about, the local crisis worker will be paged to go out and handle the situation, in coordination with local police.

"It's a more systematic approach that supports our crisis workers in the field," Starbuck said. When a local crisis worker gets the call, they know it's a real crisis, rather than a situation that can be defused over the telephone.

Colorado West has been actively providing emergency mental health services for more than 40 years.

From July 2011 through June 2012, Colorado West staff responded to nearly 7,000 crisis incidents in its 10-county service area, including 4,000 in Mesa County.

Colorado West is a nonprofit organization that offers mental health, behavioral change and substance abuse services from 13 outpatient offices throughout the Western Slope and at a psychiatric hospital in Grand Junction.

The organization's mission is to help people of all ages live happy and healthy lives.

- Staff report

The Colorado Department of Transportation has closed the rest area on Interstate 70 in west Glenwood Springs - a closure was planned for March, but instead had to happen sooner because of sewer line issues.

The Colorado Transportation Commission passed a resolution at its May 2012 meeting to close four highway rest areas that the Colorado Department of Transportation currently operates and maintains; the west Glenwood facility is on that list. The closures will enable CDOT to save some $300,000 a year in maintenance costs, save additional funding that would go to upgrade wastewater systems at these sights and enable rest area employees to shift duties to roadway maintenance.

"This was not an easy decision for CDOT and our State Transportation Commission, but with five additional rest areas within 20 miles Glenwood, we can accommodate our traveling public fairly easily," said CDOT Region 3 Maintenance Superintendent Toby Brown. Most of our rest areas were constructed near areas that had limited services. Glenwood has grown so much since the rest area was built in 1969; now, the private sector can provide traveler services in addition to our remaining rest areas along the I-70 corridor."

CDOT will develop the rest area for emergency truck parking to help alleviate congestion in Glenwood Springs, particularly during major storm or emergency events. This parking area follows the plans laid out in the I-70 West Mountain Corridor Incident Management Plan, which was developed by a large coalition of city, county and state representatives (including CDOT) involved in roadway management and emergency services.

The four additional rest areas in Glenwood Canyon start with No Name, just four miles away; and westbound travelers reach the Rifle rest area in 15 miles. A growing Glenwood Springs also offers new visitor services.

"We recently partnered with Colorado Mountain College to open a new visitor information center at 8th Street and Grand Avenue in downtown Glenwood Springs," Marianne Virgili, CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association, said. "This central location and state-of-the art facility is designed to meet the needs of regional visitors, as well as introduce them to the college. We appreciate CDOT's thoughtful allocation of limited resources."

CDOT is also closing the I-70 rest area in Bennett, on US 287 at Hugo and on US 50 at Hadley, just east of La Junta. In 2009, the department permanently closed the two rest areas located along northbound and southbound I- 25 in the Larkspur area. All these rest areas are, or were, in areas that have grown since their construction - areas that now provide many services to motorists. What's more, all can now provide space for emergency parking or, in the case of Larkspur, much-needed truck chain-up stations.

- Staff report

Judge Christine M. Arguello of the Colorado district of U.S. federal court has granted a summary judgment for Eagle County in the case of former sheriff's deputy Kim Andree.

With that action, the federal court sided with the county and ruled that Andree's dismissal did not violate her rights.

"The court basically ruled that there was a non-discriminatory reason - budget reduction - for her separation of employment," said County Attorney Brian Treu.

Andree filed the federal lawsuit back in 2010 after Sheriff Joe Hoy eliminated her job as part of his department's required $2 million budget cut. Andree's claim alleged that her severance was in retaliation after she made an inquiry to the county's human resources director regarding how to file an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claim.

According to the Nov. 30 summary judgment handed down by Judge Arguello, Hoy was re-elected Sheriff on Nov. 9, 2010, and on Nov. 15, he notified Andree that he was eliminating her position for budgetary reasons. The judgment states that Andree and Hoy had discussed her early retirement prior to her dismissal and that Andree proposed a severance package that included two years of salary, 18 months of insurance benefits and assistance in maintaining her Peace Officer Standards and Training certification and concealed weapons permit. Andree maintained that Hoy "reportedly" agreed to the package and she agreed to continue working until the November 2010 election.

The judgment stated that in August of 2010, Andree sent a list of severance package items to Hoy so it could be forwarded to the county Human Resources Director Lisa Ponder for formal action. In September, Ponder noted the severance package proposal was not in line with other packages the county was offering to employees at that time.

Because of falling property tax and sales tax revenues, Treu noted that in 2010 the county offered early retirement packages to many employees. The early retirement offers were based on years of service and Andree was offered a package that included $54,272 (approximately 24 weeks of pay), an additional 6 percent payment of that amount to her 401K retirement fund and a $20,000 to pay for health insurance coverage. Andree ultimately rejected that package and indicated she was planning to file a lawsuit. The federal judge noted that federal court does not have jurisdiction for Andree's claims of breach of contract related to the severance discussion and those claims would have to go to Eagle County District Court for resolution.

In issuing the summary judgment related to the discrimination claim, Judge Arguello ruled that Andree's initial action requesting information regarding an EEOC complaint did not meet the standard for "protected activity" as required for a finding in her favor. The judge also noted that Andree's specifically cited EEOC information request was sent to Ponder, not Hoy, and he was responsible for the ultimate decision to sever her employment.

The judgment noted "Defendant (Hoy) contends that he decided to cut Plaintiff's (Andree's) position in particular because his command staff was top heavy; none of the previous personnel reductions had included cuts to his command staff; he did not want to impact the department's core law enforcement functions of patrol, investigations and detentions; and he felt that Plaintiff's duties could be more easily absorbed by other staff members. As previously stated, if an employer can offer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its actions, the case should be dismissed on summary judgment."

Following the summary judgment announcement, Hoy released a statement, "Over the last couple of years many people have worked very diligently on this case and their time and effort is greatly appreciated. The Sheriff's Office wishes Kim Andree nothing but the best in her future endeavors."

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At many higher elevations, ice has started to cover the reservoirs, rivers and ponds, attracting visitors to ice fish, ice skate, ice sail and enjoy other winter activities outdoors. The winter landscapes beckon and there is plenty of room to roam. To safely enjoy winter outdoor recreation adventures on the ice, Colorado Parks and Wildlife offers a few basic safety rules to follow.

Ice conditions vary, so always assume that ice conditions are unsafe and that ice thickness varies from place to place. Four inches of ice will provide a margin of safety and is generally considered safe for ice fishing and ice skating. Snowmobiles and ATVs need at least five inches of ice thickness. The best advice is stay off the ice when there is any question about thickness and conditions.

Be on the lookout for the signs of unsafe ice, including ice of different colors, water on top of the ice, cracks, pressure ridges, open water and bubbles in the ice. Also, beware of ice covered with snow. Sometimes the snow serves as insulation, keeping the ice from melting. Other times, the snow has the opposite effect, insulating the surface from freezing.

When venturing onto the ice, remember the following ice safety tips:

• Never go onto the ice alone. A buddy may be able to call for help if you fall in. Also, never attempt to walk out onto the ice to rescue a friend because you will risk falling through the ice as well.

• Avoid alcoholic beverages while on the ice. Alcohol increases your chances for hypothermia, which is the rapid loss of body temperature.

• Always wear a life jacket or personal flotation device (PFD) over winter clothing. Life jackets can provide excellent flotation and protection from hypothermia.

• Assemble a personal safety kit. Always wear a safety kit on your body when going out onto the ice. Safety kits should include an ice pick, rope and a whistle to call for help.

• Always keep your pets on a leash. Never allow your dog to run out onto the ice and never walk your dog near a frozen lake or pond without a leash. If your dog falls through the ice, do not attempt a rescue. Go for help.

• Reach-Throw-Go. If you can't reach the person from shore, throw them a flotation device or a rope. If you still can't help the person quickly, go for help.

If you do fall through the ice, remember these tips:

• Do not panic. Try to remain calm to conserve as much energy as possible. Try to get your arms onto the ice and kick as hard as you can with your feet to help lift you onto the ice, and then roll to safety. If you can't get out of the cold water by yourself, take appropriate actions to extend your survival time while waiting to be rescued.

• Do not swim. Swimming will cause your body to lose heat much faster than if you stay as still as possible.

• Act slowly and deliberately to conserve heat. Expect a progressive decrease in your strength and ability to move. Make the harder maneuvers at the beginning, while you can.

• Keep your upper body above water. Keep your head and upper body as far out of the water as reasonably possible to conserve body heat.

There is lots of outdoor fun to enjoy at Colorado Parks and Wildlife's frozen reservoirs and waterways. Just take precautions and follow the safety tips. The special beauty of snow covered landscapes awaits you. Avoid the winter blues by packing up the family ice skates to take the kids for a spin or a twirl. Try ice fishing for a change of pace.

- Staff report

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The VailDaily Updated Dec 31, 2012 06:59PM Published Dec 31, 2012 06:54PM Copyright 2012 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.