Eagle Valley Behavioral Health receives license, designation critical to adding funding and services
Nonprofit is one step closer to opening its in-patient facility in Edwards
When Vail Health first formed Eagle Valley Behavioral Health in 2019, it was responding to the community need for localized and accessible behavioral health services. Now, two years later, the agency is continuing to fill gaps in access to behavioral health and crisis services.
As part of its growth, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Vail Health recently received a new license and new designation, both of which acknowledge the work that’s been done and enable it to continuing building and adding new community services.
“Really, it is a recognition of the incredible work that we, along with our community — because it’s not just Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, we have several community partners that are doing this great work — demonstrate clinical effectiveness across what the state calls the continuation of care. And this goes from prevention and education and outreach, all the way to crisis services,” said Casey Wolfington, a licensed psychologist and the community behavioral health director with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health.
In late January, the organization became the first in Colorado to receive a new Behavioral Health Entity license from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The new license — created from a House Bill passed in 2019 and put into effect in July 2021 — corrected some inefficiencies in the way the state licensed behavioral health service providers by combining various licenses into a single license.
“This license is saying that we are a behavioral health entity, which means that we’re licensed to provide behavioral health services within our community,” Wolfington said.
Not only that, but the license was the final step the organization needed to complete the process of becoming a designated Community Mental Health Center in Colorado. While the organization received this designation in October, it was required to have the Behavioral Health Entity license to be eligible to receive funding unlocked by the designation.
Not only will the designation will unlock new sustainable funding sources for Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, but it is vital to the opening of its in-patient behavioral health facility in Edwards.
“This is the first step,” Wolfington said. “We’ll be opening a facility that ultimately will be a psychiatric hospital, but really this is the first step of having that continuum of care.”
This is a significant milestone for the agency as no other organizations have received this designation in Colorado since 1989. There are only 17 other organizations with this designation across the state, including Mind Springs in northwest Colorado.
The reason that this designation is rare and only held by a few agencies is because “the vast majority of behavioral health services in most communities are actually driven by private providers rather than organized community centers,” Wolfington said. “And that is what leads to a lot of the frustration because individuals either can’t afford to access care or maybe they’re waitlisted to access care.”
The designation is given by the Colorado Department of Human Services, Office of Behavioral Health to organizations that provide “mental health treatment services to individuals and families who are low-income or not covered by insurance throughout Colorado.”
In other words, Wolfington referred to these centers as “safety-net community agencies.”
Organizations with this designation are statutorily mandated to provide inpatient, outpatient, partial hospitalization, emergency and consultative and educational services.
While Eagle Valley Behavioral Health provides (or will provide) these services itself, its approach to creating this comprehensive behavioral health system includes a number of community partnerships. For example, this includes its partnership with Eagle County Paramedics, local law enforcement and the local Hope Center to provide school-based behavioral health services and crisis co-response.
Significantly, state-designated community mental health centers also get access to millions of dollars of public funding. At this point, Wolfington said, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health has not received any funding from the state for this new designation but is “hopeful in the next month or so we’ll have some designated funding.”
“We’re hopeful it allows us to build out additional services and can help support some of our in-patient facility,” Wolfington said with the caveat that it hasn’t seen a “good estimate of what funding will come our way.”
This funding will help Eagle Valley Behavioral Health be more sustainable in the long run. Up until this point, the organization has been funded by the local marijuana tax (providing around $400,000 annually to the organization), the initial $60 million approved by Vail Health’s Board of Directors, and the Vail Health Foundation’s campaign to raise $100 million.
Since its creation, the organization has been “recognizing the gaps in behavioral health service in our community, which were predominantly the various tiered levels of care and not having enough providers,” Wolfington said. “In order to address that in a sustainable way, we needed to be able to match this incredible commitment (referring to Vail Health’s initial commitment) with some sustainable funding.”
“We want to make sure we can have access to the various state funding opportunities in a manner that is locally-driven, community-driven, and this really unlocks the door to decide how best to allocate funds for our community by members of our community,” Wolfington said. “If we are going to be successful across the continuum of care, we wanted to be able to optimize all of the different sources of funding.”
With the new license and designation unlocking this funding, Wolfington is hopeful the organization will continue finding and addressing gaps in community behavioral health services.
“What we are trying to do — and once we build our inpatient facility, we hope that this is achieved — is ensure that no matter what level of service someone needs with regard to behavioral health, they’ll be able to receive it right here in our community,” Wolfington said.
While Eagle Valley Behavioral Health is taking a leadership role, it will continue to rely on its community partners to address these gaps.
“Anytime that we recognize a gap in our community, we try to look to existing partnerships in our community to determine who might be best to fill those gaps and if nobody is in our community that is a viable solution then we recognize that we will take on that,” Wolfington said. “We’re not just going to let gaps continue, we will fill that need.”
Edwards Community Health Campus
In addressing the gaps that still exist, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health is turning toward the future and the construction of the Edwards Community Health Campus. The campus will be anchored by a behavioral health center that includes a 28-bed inpatient facility.
“When we think about this community, we’re really thinking about it serving a regional need — the need for inpatient beds is incredibly high,” Wolfington said. “We’re really excited to be partnering with the state to be part of a solution for this highest level of behavioral health need.”
Not only will the campus be home to the much-needed inpatient facility, but it will also soon be home to a Mountain Family Health Center and an outpatient behavioral health clinic. Already, the tenants for the campus include Colorado Mountain Medical’s outpatient behavioral health services, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, The Community Market and My Future Pathways.
“There’s so many different things that contribute to someone’s health; the solution is never going to be only therapy. We’re really trying to create a campus that embraces medical health, physical health, psychological health, nutrition and puts it all together to have one total health,” Wolfington said. “One thing that is so important about having it be this wellness, health campus is it links pieces like access to food or access to trusting adults through mentorship.”
The health project was recently approved by the Eagle County Board of Commissioners and is set to kick off construction this summer. The organization is eyeing 2024 for the facility’s grand opening.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.