Mind Springs Health looks to open local clinic to bolster mental-health care | VailDaily.com

Mind Springs Health looks to open local clinic to bolster mental-health care

Kevin Fixler
kfixler@summitdaily.com

SUMMIT COUNTY — The region's primary behavioral-health agency is in the middle of a revamp and plans to make Summit County a focal point for mental wellness.

Mind Springs Health, which provides care for a 10-county area in the state as well as parts of neighboring Utah and Wyoming out of West Springs psychiatric hospital in Grand Junction, is hoping to open a short-term crisis unit in Frisco. The proposed eight-bed stabilization center still has several obstacles to clear before it can become a reality, but the idea is to open it as soon as late 2017.

Presently West Springs and a 24/7 walk-in crisis unit also in Grand Junction are the only local adult mental-health facilities available this side of Lakewood, almost two hours from Summit. The aim is bolstering these much needed services for the mountain communities by locating this resource along the Interstate 70 corridor.

"It's about bringing programs to community," Sharon Raggio, Mind Springs president and CEO, said at a stakeholder meeting in Breckenridge last week. "We want to do it. I know from just being in this community that if any community can make it happen, this community can. It cannot be done by Mind Springs alone."

“The state of Colorado does not have enough psychiatric hospital beds. Even on the Front Range they’re full, and we are full in Grand Junction. This will effectively double and it’ll be 64 beds. We’ll help the entire state.”Sharon RaggioMind Springs president, CEO

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Raggio recently took part in a task force pulled together by Gov. John Hickenlooper to address mental-health holds, and the new area clinic offering observation beds and a grouping of care options was a recommendation that came out of the collaboration. The money to afford such a unit is still the biggest impediment, on top of finding a location for the facility, but those are details that can be addressed if it is green lit in the forthcoming state budget. Colorado's Office of Behavioral Health is thought to be supportive, as are Western Slope lawmakers, and a final determination will be made by late April.

Gaps in service

The potential pool of cash for mental-health needs — funded through taxes collected from marijuana sales — is a welcome asset as the attention on rising suicide rates, assistance with substance-abuse problems and providing comprehensive care continues to swell. And escalating discussion of the Frisco unit is just the start.

Raggio estimated the mountain-resort region receives about $4 million from the state each year to address all of its crisis demands, which leaves any number of gaps in service. West Springs currently maintains 32 mental-health beds, and with an ever-increasing need, Mind Springs intends to break ground this summer on a new hospital in Grand Junction to dramatically expand capacity and help people obtain treatment.

"The state of Colorado does not have enough psychiatric hospital beds," she said. "Even on the Front Range they're full, and we are full in Grand Junction. This will effectively double and it'll be 64 beds. We'll help the entire state."

Focus on access

Floor plans and renderings of the hospital have been released and it will take approximately 16 months to complete once construction begins. But, given it will still be located nearly three hours away in Grand Junction, the objective remains finding ways to address local shortfalls.

As a piece to helping solve that issue, Mind Springs brought on Sonia Jackson as its new Summit County program director. Since December, she has been meeting with countless organizations and community groups to better understand the area's deficiencies to create improved care coordination, refine internal operations and management, as well as boost overall mental-health access moving forward.

"Access has been a big discussion no matter where I go," said Jackson. "So what do we need to do to make access what it needs to be for the community? The more we duplicate things, the less effective we'll be in the long run."

Working closely with Dr. Jules Rosen, Mind Springs' chief medical officer who is based in Summit, the goal is to re-establish relationships with important community partners to make a real dent in the mental-health predicament that affects so many each day. After some admitted setbacks for the organization in his three-and-a-half years in the position, Rosen said he's looking forward to working collectively — with institutions like the health-care providers and professionals, employers and nonprofits — to shore up both the real and perceived snags of the past.

"It's no secret there have been stumbling blocks," Rosen said at last week's meeting. "I think we're at the point now where we've really gotten over that hurdle. I'm hoping the community knows we are here to work with the community and to partner in every way. What is happening here is so special."

'In this together'

Mind Springs staff acknowledges none of it will happen overnight. Through work already jump started by citizens of the county on the Building Hope initiative, a six-to-nine-month plan for amplifying specialty care, and with the gears already churning on the new psychiatric hospital in Grand Junction and crisis unit in Frisco, 2017 stands to be a critical year for advancing behavioral-health care in Summit.

"We really do have to change some of the ways that we do risk care and crisis care," said Jackson. "We have a community where when things happen, we have to be able to respond. We all need to find ways in our care continuums to connect those dots. We're all in this together."