Turner: Eagle County tackling mental health care at the local level (column)
All health care is local, even if it doesn’t always feel that way. We live in a time when multi-state, for-profit hospital and health systems are proliferating. Already-massive commercial insurance providers are merging to become even larger. The medical technology field tops $500 billion in sales each year. Even so, the truism remains that all health care is delivered locally and thus, critically, should be designed locally to best meet the unique needs of a community.
So it is a huge deal when one of our Colorado mountain communities rallies to address a local health need that has long been neglected by bigger market forces.
In passing Ballot Measure 1A, Eagle County stepped up in support of mental health. The move reaffirms that communities themselves are catalysts for change. Proceeds from 1A will be invested in critical mental health prevention and treatment services, which have been perennially underfunded across the country, particularly in rural areas.
It is an exciting opportunity to support efforts such as establishing a new crisis stabilization facility to support individuals with immediate needs so they can access the services they deserve.
The new resources are important, but the most encouraging piece of the ballot measure is the process to determine where the dollars will go. A large panel representing diverse stakeholders of health care organizations, all law enforcement entities, pre-hospital care, education sector, multiple businesses, nonprofits and engaged residents from throughout all of Eagle County will come together to make these tough decisions.
It is an opportunity to authentically engage community members, confront difficult issues head on and build shared ownership of a key public health issue. It is the Eagle County residents who are cooperating for common goals and designing solutions locally for the delivery of care locally.
These new resources will not be an immediate panacea for Eagle County, but it does reflect an important shift in Colorado. Stigma and outright discrimination have plagued the conversation around mental illness. Finally, there is growing recognition that mental health impacts us all and that robust, community-based prevention and treatment supports are essential.
To those who voted in support of Ballot Measure 1A, thank you. To those who will bear this new tax burden in support of mental health, thank you. To Eagle County for setting the example that we can build better communities from the ground up, thank you.
Brian Turner is deputy director for the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council and immediate past president for the Colorado Public Health Association.