Hope, and help, for mental health crisises now a phone call away with Hope Center Eagle River Valley
National Recovery Month
As we mark National Suicide Prevention Week, Mental Health Colorado is publicizing another alarming mental health issue in the state.
More than 67,000 Coloradans — enough to fill the Red Rocks Amphitheater seven times — do not get the substance-use services they need. Mental Health Colorado is kicking off National Recovery Month by proposing policy priorities for the next legislative session, sharing resources and emphasizing stories of hope.
Twenty-eight of Colorado’s 64 counties do not have a substance use or mental health treatment facility. Mental Health Colorado is working to ensure people get the substance-use services they need when they need them.
“Addiction isn’t a character flaw; it’s a medical condition, and it doesn’t have to be a death sentence — it’s treatable,” said Mental Health Colorado President and CEO Andrew Romanoff.
The proposed policy priorities include enforcing laws that require insurance companies to cover mental and physical health equally and increasing the availability of mental-health and substance-use services in schools. All six priorities are outlined at www.mentalhealthcolorado.org/policy.
EAGLE — She didn’t plan things this way, but Jen Girard acknowledges that opening the Hope Center Eagle River Valley this week was a case of perfect timing.
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, and just as its name proclaims, the Hope Center Eagle River Valley aims at making a suicide prevention impact locally.
On Monday, Sept. 10, the Hope Center Eagle Valley initiated its co-response model. In the weeks to come, the center will launch its 24-hour mental-health crisis call center. And then, Girard said, the Hope Center is prepared to adapt.
“Every day, we are learning more about what this community, in particular, will need,” she said.
Hope Center Eagle River Valley is an expansion of a program that has successfully operated in the Roaring Fork Valley for eight years. The Hope Center operates in partnership with law enforcement services and community resources.
Under the Hope Center model, a crisis clinician screens every potential mental health 911 or suicide hotline call to determine risks, safety and need. Typically, within five minutes of launching a screening, the clinician knows whether or not to send help to the caller.
If help is needed, then law enforcement or emergency medical personnel can be sent out, followed by a clinician shortly thereafter. While police or EMS personnel deal with enforcement or medical issues at the scene, Hope Center personnel are there to help with immediate mental-health needs.
But that moment of crisis is just the start of a long-term relationship. After the crisis has passed, the Hope Center remains in the patient’s life — connecting them with the appropriate community resources to help address their long-term needs.
An enthusiastic community response has greeted the program, which included both cash and in-kind donations for local governments, agencies and programs.
Already at work
The community response to the Hope Center Eagle River Valley expansion has been resoundingly positive, Girard said.
“I am hearing from everyone, everywhere, that there is just a dire need for any and all mental-health services,” she said. “It think that is great. It means people are talking about mental-health issues.”
That’s a significant change, said Girard, who is a native of the Eagle River Valley.
“When I left this valley five years ago, it was something no one was talking about,” she said.
Prompting conversation about mental health has also meant local residents are reaching out for help. Girard noted Hope Center Eagle River Valley counselors have already responded to a handful of calls involving suicidal persons, and they were recently called to a local school to assist a student.
“We were really thankful that the school called us and used us,” she said.
Right now, there are only a few people who can call the Hope Center Eagle River Valley, but that won’t be the case for long. While the program is up and operational, its 24-hour services are not yet staffed. So, rather than publicizing a number that might not yet feature a voice on the line, the center has limited sharing its contact information to law enforcement, emergency medical services and school counselors. Once the call center is fully staff, Girard said the Hope Center Eagle River Valley contact information will be widely publicized.
Armed with cardboard signs, and their voices, students around the valley walked out of school on Friday to join hundreds of thousands of their peers to demand action on global climate change.