Mind Springs loses state contract for behavioral health crisis services
Sky-Hi News editor
EAGLE COUNTY — Mind Springs Health was dealt a severe blow to its community crisis services this week with the announcement that the state of Colorado would transition away from using the mental health care company effective July 1.
That action has verberated across the Western Slope’s behavioral health system, but Eagle County is better positioned than its neighbors to weather the change.
In just 10 days, Rocky Mountain Health Plans will assume responsibilities for crisis services for the entire Western Slope, which will now encompass 22 counties. Rocky Mountain Health Plans, however, does not maintain infrastructure within the majority of the area.
Since 2014, Mind Springs Health, which operates clinics in Vail and Eagle, has held a contract with the state to provide mobile and walk-in crisis services across its 10-county service area. However, beginning in October 2018, Eagle County launched a co-response program with the newly created Hope Center of Eagle Valley for crisis response.
“Effective July 1st, the Hope Center will be the primary provider of mobile crisis response in Eagle County,” said Chris Lindley, who has been named executive director of a newly created nonprofit organization called Eagle Valley Behavioral Health.
“The co-response crisis model is designed to treat people in their home and prevent transportation to the hospital or jail if possible,” Lindley said. “This model has been extremely effective and well received by the community and the partners. Since October, this model has reduced transports to the hospital and jail by over 76%, saving patients thousands of dollars and treating them in a more appropriate environment. It also allows first responders the ability to get back in the field serving the community while trained behavioral health clinicians work with patients in their homes.”
Mind Springs will continue to provide follow-up care in the community by operating clinics and providing behavioral health services, noted Sharon Raggio, Mind Springs Health President and CEO.
For Mind Springs clinic patients, there will be no change to outpatient services. However, emergency services will only be available to clients.
“Certainly, this is a change for us,” Raggio said. “But we will continue to offer counseling services to the people we see in our offices.”
Mental health funding
Raggio noted that Mind Springs is currently discussing methods to continue offering crisis service in Western Colorado communities that have no alternative programs available after the July 1 date. She said that while behavioral health awareness, and the need for additional services, has increased across the state and the nation, funding has not.
“Frankly, Mind Springs has been doing crisis on less funding and the Hope Center has brought additional funding to serve the Eagle County community,” she said.
“It is our understanding that under the new funding model which is effective July 1, the Hope Center will be awarded state behavioral health crisis response funds for Eagle County, which were previously going to Mind Springs,” Lindley said. “Up until this point, the Hope Center has received no state dollars and has relied on funding contributions from Eagle County Paramedics, Eagle County Government and all three law enforcement entities (Avon, Eagle and Vail police departments) in this valley.”
The state’s crisis care contract was put up for rebid in 2017, at which time Colorado officials transformed responsibilities, regions and funding allocations, according to Mind Springs officials. The prior 10-county region of service, labeled Region 1, was increased to encompass 22 counties, effective July 1.
In addition to enlarging Region 1 to 22 counties, there are several other changes that will occur with the transition away from Mind Springs including:
- The state-designated Colorado Crisis Hotline 1 (844) 493-8255/Text ‘talk’ to 8255 will handle all mental health crisis calls and initial assessments for mobile crisis deployment.
- The state has currently determined that the two walk-in crisis centers for Region 1 will be in Larimer and Montrose counties, thus all walk-in and crisis center services in the area will now be relocated to the new Center for Mental Health Crisis Walk-in Center in Montrose.
- The new West Springs Hospital in Mesa County will continue to provide psychiatric hospitalization for all those in need of it.
- There is a possibility that Summit County may continue to offer ATU-level services. Conversations are occurring within the community.
- The current Mind Springs Health crisis hotline, (888) 207-4004, will be deactivated and crisis staff reassigned wherever possible.
“This is a time of significant change for Mind Springs Health. We have been delivering crisis services to our community since our inception in 1972,” Raggio said. “As this news was shared with our board of directors, they asked me to convey their personal sadness as they have always viewed crisis services as one of the most important services offered.”
The Colorado Behavioral Health Council challenged the proposal in state court before Judge Ross Buchanan, arguing that the court did not fully flush out the evidence surrounding the severe reduction in funding to the northeast and western slope region, as well as the impact of the administrative expansion as it impacts the availability of funding for client care.
During the proceeding, Buchanan asked if the state was sure it wanted to continue to proceed with the contract rebidding given community concerns.
The court ultimately ruled against the council on May 1. In the ruling, it was stated that, where there is uncertainty in statute that is interpreted by a state department, the court does not have the authority to speak for the legislature.
Rocky Mountain Health Plans did not immediately return a request for comment.
Vail Daily reporter Pam Boyd contributed to this report