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Mental Health Needs Surge

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Mental Health Needs Surge

Depression, substance abuse on the rise

If there’s any indicator as to the emotional toll the pandemic has taken, it’s the increased demand for mental health care.

The uncertainty, sadness and struggle to survive COVID-19 have led to an increase in mental health concerns including depression, substance abuse and suicidal ideation both nationwide and in the Gunnison Valley.

Gunnison County leaders last week during a virtual town hall took a closer look at how the community has fared since the start of the pandemic nine months ago.

They found that people of all ages are dealing with the difficulties of navigating the pandemic. For adults, unemployment, food insecurity and child care have been reported as top stressors. Teenagers are taking on uncertainty with class schedules and canceled events such as prom. And the elderly, who face the highest risk of severe COVID-19, are facing isolation and vulnerability like never before.

A Gunnison County business and community survey sent out this November found more than 58% of business owners report their mental health has declined since this time last year.

Nearly a quarter of the 560 respondents said they feel anxious and stressed “most of the time,” and another 26% reported an increase in alcohol consumption.

“Unfortunately we are seeing the same people here over and over again,” said Gunnison Valley Health Foundation Director Jenny Birnie of recent admissions to the hospital.

Birnie said GVH has seen a staggering 500% increase in admissions to its emergency rooms for behavioral issues among adults in 2020. Th e primary diagnoses include anxiety, suicide attempts or ideation, alcohol and opioid non-fatal overdose, depression and hallucinations.

Since January 2020, there has been an 18% increase in visits for suicidal ideation as well as a 10% increase in alcohol non-fatal overdoses for adults in Gunnison County.

Alcohol abuse has long been a problem for both adults and youth in the Gunnison Valley, said Director of Gunnison County Juvenile Services Kari Commerford.

A Healthy Kids Colorado survey from fall 2019 found that 27% of high school students in Gunnison County reported binge drinking (five or more drinks) in the past 30 days.

“This is significantly higher than regional, state and national figures,” Commerford said.

High school students who reported binge drinking expressed increased feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.

Th ose figures have only continued to climb amid the pandemic, Commerford said.

Regional Director for The Center for Mental Health Kimberly Behounek said increased stress during an event such as a pandemic can result in diffi culty sleeping, concentrating and increased substance abuse.

Knowing where to get assistance for services ranging from testing to therapy and other resources is a good start to addressing mental health issues.

It’s important to know personal priorities and what works for the individual, said Behounek. Whether it’s going for a short walk or reading a book, it’s beneficial to know how to cope with continued stress.

“Your priorities may not be the norm, and that’s OK,” Behounek said.

Birnie acknowledged the hardships Gunnison County residents have faced in recent months but said she was grateful for the county’s current status.

“We’re actually in good shape compared to other communities,” Birnie said.

Gunnison Country Times
Kate Gienapp can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or
Gunnison Country Times | December 17, 2020
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What has been causing stress? (chart)

A recent survey in Gunnison County found financial insecurity to be the biggest stressor as the community continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. (Courtesy photo)


Taking care of your emotional health will help you think clearly and react to the urgent needs to protect yourself and your family.

  • Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories, including those on social media. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
  • Take care of your body. Take deep breaths, stretch, or try a meditation exercise.
  • Try to eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and drug use.
  • Make time to unwind.
  • Connect with others. Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community- or faith-based organizations. While social distancing measures are in place, consider connecting online, through social media, or by phone or mail.


GVH partnered with The Center for Mental Health (CMH) to gather certified peer support specialists that have overcome a mental health condition and mentor individuals who struggle with mental health, psychological trauma or substance abuse.


GVH Peer Specialist

CMH Peer Specialist
Gunnison/Crested Butte

The purchase of a designated vehicle for the mental health clinician will allow the clinician to respond autonomously, stay on scene to deliver patient services, and complete follow-up visits while freeing up officers for additional calls for service. Courtesy photo by William Woody (City of Montrose)

CMH launches mobile crisis service

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Center for Mental Health launches mobile crisis service

The Center for Mental Health Crisis Walk-in Center

The Center for Mental Health’s walk-in crisis clinic at 300 N. Cascade Ave. The center recently launched a mobile response program for those in crisis, who cannot access the clinic, and whose situation does not require a law enforcement response. (Montrose Daily Press file photo)

People in need of immediate mental health care can’t always access the Center for Mental Health’s resources, particularly in rural areas. Enter the center’s new mobile crisis response team.

“Our local crisis response program is a 24-hour a day program that works to help support someone who is in a crisis in the community — in their home, their school, or other community-based location — that, due to where they live or availability, that they are unable to come to our crisis walk-in center in Montrose,” chief clinical officer Amanda Jones said Wednesday, in introducing the new service to area law enforcement agencies.

The center operates a crisis stabilization clinic on North Cascade Avenue, in addition to its offices on Miami Road. Therapists have also stepped up to work as co-responders who travel with police agencies on calls where their services are needed.

The mobile crisis program is one more tool to help meet urgent mental health needs.

Trained professionals are sent out to de-escalate situations and stabilize the involved individual. The team conducts a crisis evaluation and then connects the patient to a clinician for an in-person or telehealth assessment. The team can then transport the patient to the crisis center, hospital or other facility, plus make a followup care plan.

People in crisis can call for help themselves; others can also call on behalf of someone else. The crisis team that receives the calls will evaluate the requests and then dispatch someone to help.

Calls can be made to the local crisis line at 970-252-6220 or to the state crisis line, 844-493-8255.

“That phone call is answered live,” said Heather Thompson, the center’s director of Nursing and Emergency Services.

“They basically triage the phone call and determine what needs to happen next. They can either talk to the person on the phone, try to get them to come to the (crisis walk-in) unit. If they’re not able tot come to the unit, a mobile crisis response is necessary.”

The Center for Mental Health’s walk-in crisis clinic at 300 N. Cascade Ave. The center recently launched a mobile response program for those in crisis, who cannot access the clinic, and whose situation does not require a law enforcement response. (Montrose Daily Press file photo)The service launched early this week; already, there have been a few crisis responses, Thompson said.

“It really is a community-based response,” Jones said.

The service is available 24/7 in Montrose, Delta, Gunnison, Montrose, Ouray and Hinsdale counties. It is available to people of all ages and regardless of insurance or ability to pay, thanks to state investment.

“We should not be needing to work out someone’s ability to pay for a service when they are needing that level of an immediate response,” Jones said.

The program comes with support from the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health, which allows a response time of up to two hours in “frontier” communities such as Montrose and the other counties; Jones said that for areas in Montrose and Delta, the response time is likely to be much quicker.

Although the function is similar to the co-responder model, the new mobile crisis team is different — professionals still deploy to a person in need, but the idea is to avoid having to use law enforcement.

“Part of the goal of mobile response is that we are able to screen and, hopefully, deploy our team to a situation without the need for law enforcement. That is what is a little bit different from a mobile response and a co-response model,” Jones said.

The center uses established guidelines to determine when its professionals can safely respond without law enforcement support.

“The goal is that once there is a mobile response, that we are also able, if the individual is safe for transport, that we can transport them to our crisis stabilization unit, a psychiatric hospital location, again, with an intention of taking primary pressures from law enforcement around the need of response or requests for transportation,” Jones said.

The mobile crisis response can be used when the location of the individual in crisis is clear; he or she is willing to speak with a clinician; there is no risk of harm to self or others; no medical concerns and the individual cannot access the walk-in clinic.

A law enforcement response will be needed when unsecured weapons are at the scene; there are unsecured aggressive animals; a domestic dispute is in progress or the person is aggressive or violent toward others.

When a person is actively harming himself or herself, other others; attempting suicide; having a medical emergency; in unresponsive, or is significantly impaired by drugs, medication or alcohol, 911 should be called.

Montrose Daily Press
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.
Montrose Daily Press | November 21, 2020
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Beer glasses (photo)

Be alert for risks of ‘gray area’ drinking

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Expert: Be alert for risks of ‘gray area’ drinking

Isolation and stress exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic are also fueling a sneaky risk — “gray area drinking.”

Gray area drinking falls between abstinence and alcohol abuse and the term is used to describe situations in which people drink more than they intended, or of which they are aware, in response to stressors. It can prime the pump for substance abuse issues: Where before, it was a glass of wine with dinner, then an extra one, suddenly, the person is drinking much more for the same effect.

“It’s often a problem for individuals. It’s an easy thing to overlook — just having a second glass of wine or another beer, and maybe you didn’t have that intent in the first place,” said Kathleen Burnell, director of Substance Use Services at The Center for Mental Health.

“Oftentimes, it is paired with other stressors. We have a lot of stress right now. There’s financial stress; there’s health stress; separation and worry about family members. There is a political division going on, which can lead to stress as well, because of the tension. People find themselves looking for a way to relax.”

When dealing with stressors, people don’t always pay as much attention as they should to how much of a substance they are consuming, Burnell said: “And that’s where gray drinking starts to sneak in.”

Signs of gray area drinking may include worry and regret about drinking; being able to stop drinking but finding it hard to stay stopped; drinking that doesn’t appear to be problematic to others and rationalization that swings between a self-admonition to stop drinking and the idea to “live a little,” according to an op-ed Burnell published in August.

One of the first signs drinking is becoming a problem might be an impact on daily routine, Burnell said Monday — such as sleeping later in the morning because of how much one has had to drink; socializing only with friends who also drink or getting less enjoyment out of family time.

“If you find yourself worrying about drinking or how much you drank, generally, worry is our mind’s way of warning us something is going on,” Burnell said.

That extends beyond alcohol, to other substances such as tobacco.

Another warning sign is using more alcohol to achieve the same effect as before — gray area drinking can ratchet up due to the way substances work in the human body.

Burnell also says to be alert to such behavior as self-rationalization, or putting off a task that needs to be done just to accommodate drinking or other substance use.

Legal involvement — being pulled over for being under the influence — is a red flag.

“Something that we’re seeing nationwide is an increase, overall, in substance use,” Burnell said. Isolation has been shown as a major factor.

“We’ve seen that all year long. By feeling disconnected, we tend to get a little less joy out of life and find ourselves looking for a few more coping mechanisms.”

Having more than one outlet for stress is important.

“When we do something like drinking, if it becomes our only tool to relax, then it is not helping us. Often, we get more satisfaction from a relaxing activity if we have more than one choice,” Burnell said.

The Center for Mental Health offers group and individual help to those struggling with substance use and gray area drinking. Help is available by phone, telemedicine or in person, with COVID-19 safety protocols. Call 970-252-3200 to learn more about these options.

Those who are feeling stressed or worried can access a 24-hour hotline at 970-252-6220.

The center also offers free online assessments at Access the free online tool “myStrength” at for wellness tools and strategies for self-care.

“We’re trying to connect with people wherever they’re at,” Burnell said.

She also acknowledged people are worried for their friends or loved ones who may have fallen into gray area drinking or outright substance abuse.

“We very much care about the people in our lives. It’s hard to sit there and see something where you want to say something,” she said.

Again, people can access support and strategies through the Center for Mental Health.

“We know we can’t make other people change, but by being there alongside them while they are evaluating what they want to do with their lives can be really valuable,” Burnell said.

Montrose Daily Press
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.
Montrose Daily Press | November 18, 2020
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The Center for Mental Health's walk-in clinic, with crisis stabilization services, began serving patients a year ago. (Justin Tubbs/Montrose Daily Press)

Advocates work to combat suicide

By Media Coverage, News

Advocates work to combat suicide as Center for Mental Health’s walk-in clinic hits first-year mark

Rana Shaner shares her story of survival in hopes of saving others — her way, she said, of giving back after she sought and received help for suicidal thoughts and attempts.

“I’m not ashamed of any of this.… We don’t really choose to have mental illness. We don’t ask for it. These are the challenges we’re faced with. There’s no reason to be ashamed of who you are as a person,” Shaner said Tuesday, midway through Suicide Prevention Month.

Shaner struggled with suicidal ideation from an early age and took the first step to recovery at age 13, when she was able to tell her mother of her dangerous thoughts and was placed into therapy. The journey toward stability continued through young adulthood, when an instructor at her college took her to the campus clinic for help with her panic attacks.

“I had no clue how to start off. I was thankful there were people who did know,” Shaner said.

Today, Shaner is an advocate against suicide who works to reduce the stigma associated with seeking help. She is a member of the Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force and was also appointed to the Mental Health Service Standards and Regulations Advisory Board.

Shaner further sits on the Zero Suicide Task Force through The Center for Mental Health.

The Rocky Mountain region has the highest suicide rates in the nation and in Colorado, the Western Slope’s suicide rate is higher than the overall rate in the state — an ongoing concern for advocates like Shaner and clinicians at The Center for Mental Health. Suicide is the leading cause of death among Coloradans 10-24, although most suicides overall occur in men 45-64.

“There are a lot of signs and symptoms for people to watch out for,” said Center for Mental Health Regional Director Laura Byard.

Falling into the “immediate risk” category are such behaviors as people talking about wanting to die or kill themselves; researching a method; obtaining a weapon, or expressing feelings of hopelessness/no reason to live.

“We would want them to contact the center or the national help line to get help immediately,” Byard said.

The “serious risk” category includes troubling behavior that is new, has increased, or is related to a painful event; expressions of feeling trapped, being in unbearable pain, or of being a burden; increased drug or alcohol use; reckless behavior; agitation; sleeping too much or too little; withdrawing; rage; isolation; revenge-seeking behavior or extreme mood swings.

Byard said people exhibiting these signs should get an immediate evaluation.

The national help line is 800-273-8255 and the clinic’s crisis line is 970-252-6220. Byard also encouraged people to come to the center’s crisis walk-in center at 300 N. Cascade Ave. for immediate help and/or an evaluation. The Center for Mental Health works with insurance, offers a sliding fee scale, and may be able to find other payment assistance options for patients.

The walk-in center was completed last March and opened to patients a year ago today. It provided crisis stabilization and other behavioral health services to almost 600 people in its first year, who before had little to no access to such care without having to travel to Denver or Salt Lake City.

Center stats showed 354 clients who would have otherwise wound up in the hospital emergency room, instead received crisis treatment at the walk-in unit. Many patients also avoided jail by receiving mental health services instead. More than 200 clients received withdrawal management (detox) treatment.

“These crises services will help someone connect and access support quickly during a time when the individual could be experiencing suicidal thoughts,” Center for Mental Health Chief Clinical Officer Amanda Jones said, in a provided statement.

“Rapid connection with services and support can decrease the potential of someone taking action on their thoughts and direct them to services for ongoing care.”

Byard said the crisis center has been an “incredible success” when it comes to serving the entire region. Although the crisis unit is small and cannot, by itself, fill the large gap in behavioral health services on the Western Slope, the feedback has shown Byard it is helpful.

“It’s been amazing for all of us to be able to serve our community this way,” she said.

Patients ages 12 and into their 90s have reached out for help with all kinds of difficulties, she said.

“We are able to connect them with our clinical staff and recommend treatment that is very specific to their individualized needs,” said Byard.

Not everyone in crisis is necessarily suicidal, and people with suicidal ideation might not necessarily be in crisis mode. “Suicidal ideation” refers to thoughts of suicide, whether brief and fleeting, or frequent and persistent.

“Anytime they (suicidal thoughts) creep in, even if it’s brief… we would recommend they get an evaluation. That’s their brain letting them know they need some support for whatever it is they’re dealing with,” Byard said.

Shaner battled suicidal thoughts throughout her life.

“My goal is to do things to promote hope, to educate and to normalize having the conversation to help take the stigma away and just be willing to initiate that discussion,” she said.

“It was challenging for me. I just want people to know there is hope. You can recover. You can create a life worth living. Recovery is possible. I think of it as, recovery is investing in your greatest asset, which is yourself.”

This is not a challenge that can be met overnight, but a long journey — and a worthwhile one, Shaner also said.

“I was so glad I did put in the time and effort,” she said.

“I decided I wanted to make meaning and purpose of my experiences. I could do that by telling my story.”

Before reaching out and fighting for her health, Shaner internalized the stigma that often comes with seeking help for behavioral health issues, believing she was somehow “defective” and unworthy. But that’s not true, she said, and therapy forced her to challenge those destructive thoughts, as well as helped her realize everyone’s existence matters.

“It doesn’t always have to be this big, grand gesture on a big scale,” Shaner said.

“Even if you offer a word of support for someone and it helps them, maybe they pass on the same words to someone else who needs it. We do all matter in this world.”

Stigma remains, Byard said.

“Unfortunately, I do think people are reticent to ask for help. It is not unusual … there’s reticence to seeking treatment. That’s the part we would definitely like to see improved,” she said. That reluctance is among the reasons why it is important to recognize the risks for suicide in oneself or in others, she added.

Suicide isn’t necessarily a symptom of mental illness, Shaner said: people with mental health conditions may not have any suicidal ideations and people without mental health conditions might indeed be suicidal.

Getting help in addressing what underlies suicidal thoughts is critical. Shaner found dialectical behavioral therapy, or DBT, particularly beneficial, and said she is grateful for the Center for Mental Health’s support.

The Center for Mental Health individualizes treatment specific to patient needs, through a thorough assessment and recommends treatment accordingly, including DBT, which focuses on emotions that are difficult to manage (not exclusively suicidal tendencies), Byard said.

When someone comes in to be evaluated for suicidal ideation, trained clinicians talk to them about their situation; psychological paint; stress; level of hopelessness; agitation and overall risk. The clinician works with the patient and his or her support system to create a safety plan and steps for treatment.

“We treat suicidality as a separate clinical issue, working with an individual toward their goals for their best life,” Byard said.

Shaner reiterated the need for people to reach out — ideally, before they are in crisis. Others may think someone who seeks help is a weak person, she said, but: “I beg to differ. I think it takes a person of great strength.”

Montrose Daily Press
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.
Montrose Daily Press | September 16, 2020
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The purchase of a designated vehicle for the mental health clinician will allow the clinician to respond autonomously, stay on scene to deliver patient services, and complete follow-up visits while freeing up officers for additional calls for service. Courtesy photo by William Woody (City of Montrose)

Co-responder partnership between police and mental health professionals

By Media Coverage, News

Co-responder partnership between police and mental health professionals proves a boon to community; grant buys specially equipped vehicle

In August, her first month as the mental health co-responder assisting law enforcement, clinician Katharyn Burke performed seven evaluations.

That speaks to the necessity of the behavioral health co-responder program, Montrose Police Department Cmdr. Tim Cox said. Cox supervises the program for the police department, which first launched a behavioral health co-responder program in late spring, 2018.

The program is a partnership with the Center for Mental Health, which provides behavioral health professionals to respond with officers to police calls that involve a person experiencing a mental health crisis, and to help de-escalate the situation. The center uses state grants to pay the salary of the co-responder.

“The whole goal of the program is to reduce individuals in behavioral crisis who are going  to the emergency room or crisis walk-in center — ultimately, the No. 1 thing is to keep them out of jail and get them the help they need,” Cox said.

A trained clinician like Burke, who is a licensed professional counselor, can use his or her skills to defuse potentially volatile situations, transport the individual in crisis to immediate care and can also conduct followup with the person. In turn, a police presence helps ensure the clinician’s safety.

Prior to the program, police officers could transport a person in crisis to the ER — and, after it opened, the Center for Mental Health’s crisis walk-in center — but they would not necessarily know whether the person received services and care, plus transporting the person took officers away from law enforcement duties.

“This is an amazing program. To be able to support our community through the co-responder model is a great benefit to our community members,” said Laura Byard, regional director for for the Center for Mental Health and the clinic’s co-responder program supervisor.

The co-responder model gets people support immediately and, ideally, helps them avoid future law enforcement contacts, or at least, decreases the level of such encounters, she said.

“It’s a quicker response. People naturally call 911 when there is an emergency, whether it’s mental health or not. It (program) allows us to get to them really quickly and address their needs,” Byard said.

Enhancing the program is the recent purchase of a specially equipped vehicle for the co- responder, which was possible because of the City of Montrose’s successful 2019 grant application for a Peace Officer Mental Health award from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.

The city received $42,745 to purchase the vehicle and radio equipment for it; a portion of the grant will also be used to train and certify five officers in peer support counseling.

The purchase of a designated vehicle for the mental health clinician will allow the clinician to respond autonomously, stay on scene to deliver patient services, and complete follow-up visits while freeing up officers for additional calls for service. Courtesy photo by William Woody (City of Montrose)

The vehicle enables Burke to arrive and depart from calls separately, which serves to free up officer time, as well as to give the patient a better transport experience, Byard said.

“Hopefully, it’s a better experience for our community,” Byard said.

Because Burke is able to transport individuals in crisis, responding officers can remain on scene, if the situation requires them to do so.

The co-responder program is a necessity, Cox said. “The partnership between the Center for Mental Health, the Montrose Police Department and Montrose County Sheriff’s Office has been beneficial so far. We knew it was needed in our community,” he said.

Although officers receive a degree of training in crisis intervention, their primary job is law enforcement. A skilled clinician on scene helps them recognize a person in mental health crisis, versus someone who is just out to break the law, Cox also said.

“The ultimate goal is to keep those individuals (in crisis) out of jail,” he reiterated, saying the clinician is ultimately the professional best equipped to assist them.

“Our officers are trained in de-escalation and they do a very good job, but having her there (is helpful),” Cox said.

In the past, officers might know someone was in a crisis, and could take that person to the ER or the crisis center, but that didn’t always end the matter.

“We would never know what happened with that individual. We would see them on the street again and wonder whatco happened,” Cox said.

Having a professional who can follow up after the fact benefits everyone, Cox said. He added that the police are not informed of the details concerning a person’s contact with mental health services, because that is private medical information; however, officers now at least know a person has received care.

“It really is just a huge partnership,” he said, referring to the Center for Mental Health and law enforcement agencies.

“The main goal is to get that individual through that crisis and hopefully, they don’t end up committing a crime because of it,” Cox said.

“I’m just incredibly impressed with our law enforcement and their dedication to ensuring the best experience for those experiencing a mental health crisis,” Byard said.

“I think we’re lucky in our community to have such a great partnership.”

Peer support training, also being funded in part through the DOLA grant, is a benefit, Montrose Police Chief Blaine Hall said in written information.

Through the peer support model, officers are able to talk in confidential settings to other law enforcement members when they are having trouble dealing with job stressors.

Hall last year announced his intention of implementing peer support in order to prevent officer suicides and other crises. Nationwide, officer suicides in 2019 exceeded the number of line of duty deaths, although the MPD’s last reported officer suicide was in 2007. The

hope is that having a peer support program will help officers overcome the stigma of seeking help when they are affected by the hard things they see on the job.

“Our officers see and experience things no one should see in a lifetime,” Hall said in a press release Monday, announcing how the DOLA grant is being spent.

“Officers need access to trained law enforcement peer support specialists who understand the profession and can assist officers and their families when the job takes a toll on their mental health wellbeing.”

Montrose Daily Press
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.
Montrose Daily Press | September 02, 2020
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Wrapping up Mental Health Awareness Month

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Wrapping Up Mental Health Awareness Month

This May we have been celebrating Mental Health Awareness Month in some new ways – most of them virtual. As we close out this month, I wanted to share why it is so important to us at The Center for Mental Health.

Mental Health Awareness Month began in 1949. It was started by Mental Health America to raise awareness, educate the public, and advocate for policies that support mental health. Every year in May we take time to promote mental health issues and try to break down the stigma that is often associated with seeking help.

In an effort to break down the stigma, the industry has turned to the term “behavioral health.” This term seeks to include both mental health issues and substance use disorders. One in 12 American adults has experienced a substance use disorder and 1 in 5 has experienced a mental illness during the past year. That equates to 467,000 Colorado adults who experienced a substance use disorder and over one million who experienced a mental illness. Approximately one quarter of these individuals received treatment at one of Colorado’s 17 Community Mental Health Centers.

On October 31, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act into law. This led to the establishment of Community Mental Health Centers throughout the country so that anyone who needed care could receive it. This helped people with mental illnesses who were “warehoused” in hospitals and institutions move back into their communities. A growing body of evidence at that time demonstrated that mental illnesses could be treated more effectively and in a more cost-effective manner in community settings than in traditional psychiatric hospitals.

The Center for Mental Health is one such Community Mental Health Center and currently serves clients in Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel counties.

Our goal is to provide behavioral healthcare to anyone in our communities who may need it. We know that good mental health is essential to overall health and personal well-being. Emotional problems can impair a person’s thinking, feelings, and behavior and, over time, can become increasingly serious and disabling.

As a local Community Mental Health Center, we try to make sure everyone has access to affordable, high-quality care. Offering 24/7 crisis and support services, individual and group therapy, and maintaining offices in rural areas are just some of the ways we support our residents.

During this time of COVID-19, we have watched our communities pull together in countless ways to support one another. It is critical that our neighbors feel connected and supported during this time. As we close out this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month, we encourage you to continue caring for each other. If you see someone who needs extra support, please reach out and use The Center for Mental Health as your community resource.

Shelly J. Spalding, CEO
The Center for Mental Health

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

By Media Coverage, News

The Center for Mental Health offers a number of services to help community members find ways to cope with COVID-19 stressors.

Mental Health Awareness month has been recognized in the United States every May since 1949. The main focus during the month is to raise awareness about mental health issues and help stop the stigma associated with it.

“We have to take care of our mental health as much as we would take care of our physical health. We do live in a very stressful world ordinarily and covid is just adding to that currently, getting the help that people need and reaching out to get the support is an important part of overall wellness and decreasing the stigma,” said Sara Palmer, Center for Mental Health.

The Center for Mental Health in Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel counties offers a number of services to help community members, families and individuals find meaningful ways to cope in today’s world. The center offers “same day” access and is open to new clients.

With the added stress of COVID-19 the center has put together a number of helpful client services according to Kristen Mau, director of marketing and communications.

“Our goal is to be a resource for people so that they can get the behavioral health care that they need. Obviously covid has shifted the way we’re doing that because we can’t meet in person the way we traditionally have been,” Mau said.

During the stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders the center has moved to providing services remotely either by telephone or by video teletherapy. While the facilities are open, many clients are accessing the new technology.

Twenty-five percent of clients opted for video teletherapy sessions from April 1 to April 18. In February the number was at 3%, and the numbers are expected to increase as the clients become more accustomed to video therapy sessions.

“It has been embraced quite well. Our teletherapy sessions are locked to ensure security. We are open in person at our Delta, Montrose, Ridgway locations; however, we have seen a reduction in people coming in due to COVID-19 so having the teletherapy and telephone option has allowed people who may have had barriers in the past access our services,” Palmer said.

Clients and non-clients can also access The Center Support Line open 24/7. Mau said the service is a way for people who are feeling stressed, anxious, or just need to speak with a trained staff person. The local support line began in response to the coronavirus pandemic as an extension of the original crisis line.

“We did a lot of training with our staff to be able to offer expanded information and kind of triage people calling in so they have a place to call somebody who is trained in helping with coping skills… and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback so, it’s a great resource for us to offer,” she said.

The week of April 19 to April 25, calls from the Center Support Line were up 27%. Mau said their support line will also help families who are food insecure or have other needs find resources. Anyone in the community can call 970-252-6220 and speak with a trained mental health staff member.

Another vital resource to help people cope during times of isolation is the center’s Facebook live “Coping with COVID” chats every Tuesday at noon. The chats began about a month ago, according to Mau who said one benefit to the platform is the rebroadcast.

“We’re getting a lot of viewership especially after, because the time may or may not be convenient for people. So, someone may have time in the evening to go back and watch it. We’ve been pretty pleased with the response,” Mau said.

The weekly chat features two clinicians who have a passion for communicating via Facebook and differs from the traditional formal webinar. Audience participation is encouraged by sending in email questions prior to the show or during the chat.

Another tool offered by the center during the COVID-19 crisis is the online wellness resource. The free tool can be accessed by anyone by using the code CMHSupport.

“It has all sorts of coping strategies, a coaching tool and a variety of mental health topics such as coping with anxiety, depression and covid. It’s a really great application that people can access from their home 24 hours a day,” Palmer said.

One change mental health professionals would like to change is the “social distancing” message to “physical distancing.”

“People are so separated from friends and family and support systems, so it’s important to maintain social connectedness. It’s really important to stay socially connected via Zoom, by phone or by whatever means is safe. Maintaining those relationships is more important now than ever so, please follow the physical distancing guidelines but find ways to stay socially connected to your support system,” Mau said.

Mental Health Awareness month will continue to be an important focus for the center during the rest of May.

“That’s the power of it being a nationwide month. Because you can’t just break down the stigma in one place. It’s a societal stigma, so for us we try to do a lot of outreach during the month. We can talk about mental health, we can be open about mental health, there’s nothing wrong with getting help. We’re all in this together and whatever you need to be a whole person is really important and we should be able to talk about it,” said Mau.

Moving ahead, the center is looking to provide mental health services designed especially for healthcare and frontline workers dealing directly with the fallout from COVID-19.

By Lisa Young

Staff writer

Delta County Independent | May 20, 2020
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Lone Cone Mountain

CMH Expands Services and Moves to New Naturita Location

By News, Press Release


Kateylyn Metcalf

The Center for Mental Health Expands Services and Moves to New Naturita Location

Naturita, Colorado – May 18, 2020 – The Center for Mental Health in Naturita has a new location as of May 1st, 2020. Previously located at Basin Clinic, The Center for Mental Health (CMH) has moved to a new building to better serve the behavioral healthcare needs of the local community.

CMH is appreciative of the Basin Clinic and the opportunity of working together over the past several years and plans to continue the important community partnership in future endeavors. To continue growth and expansion of the mental health resources CMH offers in the community, the location has moved inside the Vista Realty offices at 212 E. Main St. in Naturita.

At this new location CMH will be providing behavioral health counseling, substance use treatment services, and psychiatric appointments. Clients of CMH will also have phone and video teletherapy access to all services which include:

  • CMH Naturita LocationIndividual Therapy for All Ages
  • Group Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Psychiatry and Medication Management
  • Substance Use Counseling
  • DUI Services
  • Psychological Evaluations
  • Peer Services

Clients will have private, secure access to the on-site, in-office teletherapy system to easily access any CMH programs and providers across the six-county region The Center for Mental Health serves. This location will be open by appointment only – call 970.252.3200 to make an appointment.

Laura Byard, regional director at The Center for Mental Health says “We are committed to serving this community and expanding access to our programs with this new location. We are actively looking for a locally-based clinician to serve this important area.”

In addition, residents of Naturita have access to the services offered by the Crisis Walk-In Center centrally located in Montrose, open 24 hours a day, 7 days week.

The Center for Mental Health is a nonprofit organization seeking to promote mental health and well-being. It provides behavioral health services across 10,000 square miles including Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel counties. Visit to learn more.

# # #

Funeral urn with yellow roses

Coping during COVID

By News

Viral emergency changes funeral practices

Saying goodbye is an important step in grieving, but the COVID-19 emergency has put traditional funerals on hold, which can affect the grieving process.

The state’s transition from a stay-home order to the slightly looser safer at home order does not change the restrictions on large gatherings: there can be no more than 10 people, including for funeral services.

“Our concern is protecting the community, but we will plan on doing what the state guidelines (say), in keeping groups down to 10 or less for any type of burial or memorial, and we encourage people to have a memorial service that everyone can attend when the ban is lifted,” director Daryl Pridy of Crippin Funeral Home said.

Taylor Funeral Home in Delta is also going by the state guidelines, director Chalmer Swain said. That mortuary also encourages people to plan memorials at a later date.

“If we have a graveside service, we hold it to 10 or fewer, or immediate family only,” Swain said.

Both funeral homes conduct burials by setting the services up in a way that does not require staff to be close by. Instead, critical staff remain at a distance to observe and then complete burials after the mourners have gone.

“The ban isn’t necessarily because of the deceased person. It’s because of everyone else,” Pridy said.

The state is limiting gatherings to reduce the opportunity for spreading the coronavirus, which causes a potentially deadly respiratory ailment. People can have the virus, but not yet show signs. Events like funerals also tend to attract people from many locations, which further increases the possibility of contact with an as-yet asymptomatic person.

Survivors do seem to understand the limitations, Pridy said.

“This has been in the front of everyone’s mind so much. Everyone we’ve dealt with knows about the ban. I think they’re mentally adjusted, for the most part. We’re not breaking a surprise to them. Everyone has been pretty good to work with in that way,” Pridy said.

“I do think it has an effect on the family, where not all the close friends and relatives can attend. I do think it is a more emotional experience for the family.”

People may experience feelings of guilt or lack of closure and isolation because of the changes, said Amanda Jones, chief clinical officer for The Center for Mental Health.

“Individuals who are experiencing the loss of a loved one during this time are not only managing a personal loss, but also the loss of rituals and traditions that help us with the grieving process,” Jones said. “Ways in which some individuals honor someone who has died, such as funerals or other gatherings, have been limited or simply not organized because of health-mandated restrictions.” “Despite these challenging circumstances, there are ways that we can support ourselves and others during this difficult time.”

The situation is not the fault of the bereaved, nor does it lie in their control, Jones said, adding there is no right or wrong way to experience loss. People can still reach out to others and connect with others who are grieving. They can take time to share memories.

“There will be a time that you will be able to come together with friends and family to celebrate the life of your loved one, so allow time to think about how that might be in the future,” Jones said.

Those who are grieving also need to take care of themselves, by eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and physical activity.

“Take time for yourself to do these things that also make you happy and allow opportunity for pushing forward in your life,” Jones said.

The funeral homes continue following universal precautions when they take charge of bodies, regardless of how the person died. Pridy said Crippin staff treat all remains as though the person might have had a virus, and wear protective gear to protect themselves, as well as people living in the residences or facilities where staff arrive.

In instances when the deceased is believed to have had COVID-19, mortuary workers place a mask on that person’s face, too, in case air expels from their lungs as they are moved.

“We don’t want to be carriers and spreaders of it. That’s why we are maintaining our distance and doing everything by phone or email,” Pridy said.

Crippin and Taylor have been conducting much of their business by phone and email, as well. The relaxation of state restrictions may allow them to have a few more in-person meetings, but with social distancing and other precautions in place.

“I think we’re all ready to get back to normal, if that can ever happen again. It’s very hard when you see the families and you can’t help them,” Swain said.

“We may be able to meet with people on more of a one-to-one basis,” Pridy said. “We’re looking forward to everything being over and the state being opened up, but business will remain (as is) until they raise the group ban, as far as funerals.”

Montrose Daily Press
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.
Montrose Daily Press | April 28, 2020
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Resources for Bereavement Services

The Center for Mental Health maintains a free, 24-7 support line for those experiencing grief, or anyone feeling anxious or in need of a listening ear: 970-252-6220 or

The center also hosts live Facebook chats for coping with COVID. For new and current clients, the center has secure, tele-therapy sessions available. Call 970-252-3200 to learn more about same-day access services or visit

The center’s walk-in crisis center remains open for those experiencing a behavioral health crisis; location is 300 N. Cascade Avenue, Montrose.

People in crisis can also call 970-252-6220 or 844-493-8255.

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