Vail Health is planning behavioral health facility for Edwards |

Vail Health is planning behavioral health facility for Edwards

Facility, under review by Eagle County, will provide local inpatient services

This artist’s depiction shows a planned behavioral health facility proposed by Vail Health.
Special to the Daily

When adolescents and adults experience a behavioral health crisis in the Eagle River Valley, they currently must be transported at least two hours away to receive care. Vail Health and its wholly owned subsidiary, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, are taking steps to address the need by proposing to build a centrally located facility in Edwards.

Receiving behavioral health treatment closer to home aids in the recovery process for patients by allowing them to be near their family and support system. Three years ago, when the community rallied together to elevate the need for behavioral health resources locally, this was identified as a key gap area in care.

“As behavioral health challenges grow nationally and in our own community, Vail Health and Eagle Valley Behavioral Health are pleased to be able to take this significant next step in building a facility that is designed to meet the very unique needs of our population,” Vail Health President and CEO Will Cook said in a news release. “Similar to Vail Health’s dedication to providing world-class medical care across our rural mountain region, we want to ensure that both our youth and adult populations have local access to world-class behavioral health care. Through the leadership of our volunteer board of directors, which committed $160 million to address the behavioral health crisis, this project is an extension and example of their drive to improve the overall health of our community.”

A constant need

Current data shows that every month, 12 to 15 patients in crisis are transported out of our community for treatment. Vail Health’s goal is to staff the new facility with clinicians equipped and trained to handle behavioral health crises and stabilize patients for a minimum amount of time, less than seven days on average, before they are transitioned to intensive outpatient services here in the community.

Vail Health has submitted applications to amend the Planned Unit Development that currently regulates land use of its Northstar Center property, located on the Edwards Access Road. The focal point of these proposed amendments is to allow for the development of a new building dedicated exclusively to behavioral health.

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Proposed amendments will also modify permitted uses to allow for a range of health care related uses and to allow for additional future development to ensure that Vail Health can provide necessary care to residents and guests of the Eagle River Valley.

Existing zoning for the Northstar Center property allows a wide range of commercial development with an emphasis on lumber yard and home improvement uses.

The proposed amendments will allow for commercial uses but with a new emphasis on health care and related uses. The site is currently developed, and as an in-fill development site, it will not promote urban sprawl nor create wildlife or other environmental impacts. The site is centrally located in the valley, immediately adjacent to Interstate 70, making it readily accessible to the entire region.

Recently completed improvements to the Edwards Spur Road and the adjacent roundabout provide capacity to accommodate traffic anticipated from the proposed project.

The review process by both the Eagle County Planning Commission and the Eagle County Board of Commissioners will address these and other aspects of the proposal. This review will include both the initial phase of development and the long-term plans for the property, to ensure the proposal is consistent with the Edwards Area Community Plan and other county development regulations.

Edwards resident Joanna Kerwin predicted many of her neighbors will be surprised to learn about Vail Health’s plan for a behavioral health facility in the community.

“We absolutely need facilities in our community for mental health. I just don’t have enough information yet about this project to make a comment,” Kerwin said.

What’s the vision?

“We envision developing a community-based behavioral health facility that provides short-term stabilization and therapeutic services for all age groups, from adolescents to adults,” said Chris Lindley, Vail Health’s chief population health officer and executive director of Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. “We want to create a continuum of care that ensures our community members can remain close to home and receive the best care and support possible.”

Vail Health purchased the Northstar Center property in 2018 and continues to manage the two existing buildings and their uses while the current tenant leases are in place.

Subject to county approval, Vail Health envisions three phases of development. The initial phase proposes construction of a new 50,000-square-foot behavioral health facility that will feature beds for short-term stays and treatment located in the rear parking lot west of the two existing buildings.

Over time, it is expected that new health care uses will be established in the two existing buildings. As health care needs warrant, future phases may include the redevelopment of the two existing buildings, as necessary to meet the community’s needs.

“On behalf of emergency responders, I applaud Vail Health’s leadership in once again stepping up so significantly to meet a very serious community need,” Vail Police Chief Dwight Henninger said. “It is very exciting to think that we will have the staff expertise and the short-term beds right here in Edwards to treat behavioral health emergencies. Persons in crisis should not be hours away from the care they desperately need.”

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