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Media Coverage

Video counseling

CMH makes room for increased call volume

By Media Coverage, News

Moving appointments to video or phone

As even the most unfazed of citizens have recently found themselves hoarding toilet paper or at least stocking up on food supplies, perusing news articles about the science and spread of COVID-19, and second-guessing any newly developing cough, all while practicing social distancing and facing economic fallout, it is undeniably a time of increased anxiety for most of the world. Now more than ever, mental health professionals find themselves offering support to people with new, developing or existing needs.

Kirsten Mau, director of marketing and communications for the Center for Mental Health, says it has been a busy time for the center at a regional and local level. Kari Commeford director of the Gunnison County Substance Abuse Prevention Program (GCSAPP), said that while her organization has not seen an uptick in calls, the county’s call center has received many inquiries from people stressed by their symptoms and the uncertainty of whether or not they have COVID-19 in the absence of definitive tests. Call center workers have worked to reassure people and encourage them to remain calm. The organizations are both working to remain open and available to all community members as needed, while also pivoting to comply with county-wide health and public safety restrictions on in-person meetings.
“Obviously, our first priority has been seeing clients,” explains Mau. And for those who find themselves in need of a little extra support right now, Same Day Access is for new clients who are not in crisis but want to get started with services.

The center’s CEO, Shelly Spalding, posted an update earlier this week, stating, “We have established an internal COVID-19 Response Team composed of leaders from various areas of our organization to interact effectively with state and local agencies across our six-county region.”

“Given the situation in Gunnison County and Crested Butte, we are moving all appointments to telephone or video so that we can continue to serve our clients even while our physical location is closed. We are outreaching our clients individually on this. We’d like to ensure the community knows how to access crisis services,” Spalding writes.

Commerford offers this advice as well: “It is an interesting time, and we have the opportunity to help shape how it impacts us, especially our kids. It is important to engage in positive experiences with our children – playing board games, playing outdoors, spending family time. Find ways to stay connected while keeping healthy and following the public health orders. Talk on the phone instead of texting. Most important unplug if you can, listening to and watching media right now can perpetuate stress and anxiety.”

Anyone experiencing a mental health crisis can call the Crisis Line at (970) 252-6220, reach out to Colorado Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255.

Crested Butte News
Written by Katherine Nettles
Crested Butte News | March 18, 2020
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Center for Mental Health, Crested Butte

A Valuable Community Resource

By Media Coverage, News

“There was no guilt, no shame, and that’s how mental health should be treated”

“We live in paradise. How could anyone feel depressed here?”

It’s a difficult and extremely personal headspace to understand, recalls 33-year local Ian Hatchett, as so many of us were drawn to this town for its beauty, recreation, culture and community. But living here can also be trying, and isolating if you don’t know who or where to turn. Hatchett experienced this difficulty firsthand, but also found a safe haven with the Center for Mental Health (CMH).

After facing back-to-back heart surgeries in 2018, “I gradually went into a very deep, dark depression,” said Hatchett. “Sometimes life can just stack up against you. It was new terrain for me. I didn’t really understand what was happening to me.”

Even though he had no prior history of depression, Hatchett recalls his struggle. “I didn’t know how to ask for help. I didn’t know how to reach out and felt incredible guilt. I had given up. I had never given up anything ever in my life. Suicide is really disproportionately prevalent in our community and I went very close.”

Fortunately, his friends recognized a need for help and took him to the Center for Mental Health in Gunnison. “We live in a village and my friends realized something was going on. I’m really lucky they were looking after me. They knew.”

Ian speaks highly of his experience with CMH, which now has a new location in Crested Butte. He says, “There’s an amazing level of compassion there and they help people who are in a really bad place. There was no guilt, no shame, and that’s how mental health should be treated.”

The Center for Mental Health provides behavioral health services through more than 10 facilities across the Western Slope and opened a Crested Butte location this summer in collaboration with Gunnison Valley Health.

Rural suicide rates are consistently higher than those in urban areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We know we live in a rural community and we know there’s a stigma around mental health,” explained Kimberly Behounek, the Center for Mental Health’s regional director for Gunnison and Crested Butte. Unfortunately, Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the country and that rate is especially prevalent along the Western Slope, as reported by the Colorado Institute of Health.

This time of year can be particularly tough for people, explained CMH CEO Shelly Spaulding. “Part of the challenge is there are so many images through social media and TV in what the perfect holidays are supposed to look like,” she said. “And for so many people the perfect holiday is not their actual experience and that adds to any emotional turmoil they might be experiencing.” Financial stress at the end of the year, and shorter and darker winter days are also factors that can contribute, she said.

However, the new CMH Crested Butte location is a significant resource to providing the north end of the valley easier access to mental health care. CMH offers a number of mental health services, including peer support, substance use counseling, mental health therapy and medication management. According to Spaulding, the Crested Butte location has seen 223 new patients through November since opening this June.

CMH is currently working on increasing its staff and services to meet the needs of the community. “We are essentially looking to double our capacity for therapy starting in January,” said Behounek.

Behounek commends the professionalism and high skill level of the Crested Butte staff, which includes psychiatric nurse practitioner Laura Rogers, who worked previously at the Gunnison location. “There’s not another licensed nurse like her in the Crested Butte community,” said Behounek. “Having Laura in-person year-round has been tremendous for our community.”

Hatchett praises the team as well. “The people who work there are full of compassion and it’s a very welcoming place. I was connected with a brilliant therapist who was very smart and very funny. They made a really big effort to customize their therapeutic tools to fit me. There was a deep commitment from [my therapist] to get me up and keep going.”

Part-time Crested Butte resident and philanthropist Paul Uhl connected with the CMH after experiencing tragedy when his son Kyle died by suicide in October 2018. Uhl said being able to talk about it was not only therapeutic, but he was also motivated to help contribute to the opening of the Crested Butte location and help those in need of affordable mental health care.

During Kyle’s celebration of life, Uhl’s family and friends raised close to $12,000 for the CMH, specifically to help patients who can’t afford mental health care. Through fundraising, the CMH strives to provide services free of charge if a patient does not have health insurance.

Uhl also spearheads CMH’s Trek for Life, an annual fundraiser event in memory of Kyle to raise suicide awareness and prevention. The event follows one of Kyle’s favorite hikes from Crested Butte over West Maroon Pass. This year’s September event raised almost $20,000 for CMH and individuals in the Crested Butte community who don’t have insurance or cannot afford mental health care.

Uhl hopes to expand the 2020 Trek for Life into a two-day event, with one day for the hike and the second day being a community event in town. “We really want to reach out the Crested Butte community more effectively,” said Uhl. “We want to be able to help those individuals in the community here who really need it and would benefit from this.”

There were four suicides in Crested Butte in 2018, and the CMH hopes to avoid this tragedy affecting the community in the future. This year, the CMH also opened a Crisis Walk-In Center in Montrose, which provides urgent help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. “In the last four months we’ve seen more than 100 people come over for services in the walk-in clinic,” said Spaulding. “If you have a friend or a loved one who you’re worried about, you can always reach out and talk to someone. I don’t want people to feel like they’re alone.”

“A lot of people come here to go skiing or hiking or biking and enjoy the outdoors, but there’s a chasm between the people who live and work here and those who come here to recreate,” said Uhl. “I hope we can build awareness and help people get through the difficult times. We have a long way to go but I’m encouraged by what’s been accomplished since the CMH has been open these past six months. The more we get people talking about it, I think we can help.”

“There’s a community resource right here for mental health,” Hatchett emphasized. “If you’ve got a problem with your car, you take it to the mechanic. If you’ve got a toothache, you go to the dentist. It shouldn’t be any different with mental health. I hope we as a community can keep our eyes open to friends showing signs of depression and withdrawal. This town really rallied around me. Because of them, I’m back and a contributing member of our beautiful community.”

Take care of one another. If you, a friend or loved one is in need of help, contact the Center for Mental Health by phone (970) 252-6220, or text “talk” to 38255 to connect with a national crisis counselor. The Center for Mental Health in Crested Butte at 214 Sixth St., Suite 4 is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed for lunch from 1 to 2 p.m.). The Montrose Crisis Walk-In Center provides urgent help 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. No insurance is needed. GVH’s peer support specialist program has also been expanded to 24-hour, seven days a week service.

Crested Butte News
Written by Kendra Walker
Crested Butte News | December 18, 2019
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Crisis Walk-In Center in Montrose

KJCT8 News: Montrose Crisis Walk-In Center Open for a Month

By Media Coverage, News

It’s been a little over a month since the mental health Crisis Walk-In Center in Montrose opened its doors.

Since it opened on September 16th, staff there say they’ve seen about 30 walk-in patients.

The center offers things like a 24-hour detox facility, and staffed mental health professionals to help anyone going through a mental crisis.

They say a big goal is to take pressure off of local emergency rooms, after the 24-hour Mind Springs walk-in center closed here in Grand Junction.

“This is something that we didn’t have before, and we feel pretty promising about what we are able to offer. Because, these services, what our hope is, is it would’ve prevented someone from not getting care, or going to a hospital level of care,” said Chief Clinical Officer, Amanda Jones.

Officials say weekends are when the walk-in clinic is usually the busiest.

KVNF Public Radio

Local Motion: Mental Health Resources

By Media Coverage, News

This edition of Local Motion focuses on mental health.

Many Western Slope residents struggle with depression, anxiety, substance abuse and even thoughts of suicide. The Surgeon General of the U.S. has said that one in four people experiences some form of mental illness, and the rates of those illnesses are highest in the American West. Fortunately, resources ranging from therapists to treatment centers are available in many communities. KVNF’s Jodi Peterson interviews various mental health experts about what assistance is out there.

Listen on KVNF
Crisis Walk-In Center in Montrose

KJCT8 News: Mental health crisis walk-in center open in Montrose

By Media Coverage, News

September 17, 2019 — After Rocky Mountain Health Plans took over the contract for crisis services statewide, with that came the closure of the 24 hour walk-in center at Mind Springs.

Now, there’s a new one in Montrose.

The new Crisis Walk-In Center will offer things like a 24-hour detox facility, and staffed mental health professionals to help anyone going through a mental crisis.

The new place has 11 beds and is the only facility of its kind between Denver and Salt Lake.

Staff at the center say they hope to take some demand off of hospital emergency rooms.

“I think that the ER’s are overrun with so many substance abuse issues going on right now, that if we can take some of those people and get them into our detox and give them the services that they need, you could definitely see a decrease in hospital admissions because of that,” said Director of Nursing and Emergency Services, Heather Thompson.

Crisis services will be available 24 hours a day, and seven days a week.

Courtesy of KJCT8 News | Back to Press Room

Attendees mingle before the STAT community presentation at the Montrose County Event Center on Thursday. (Emily Ayers, Montrose Daily Press)

Community orgs partner for school threat assessment

By Media Coverage, News

September 13, 2019 — If addressing potential threats in schools seems daunting, there is now a standardized process for threat assessment that takes a community-oriented approach to helping students.

The Montrose County School District RE1-J, Montrose County Sheriff’s Office, The Center for Mental Health and the Montrose Police Department partnered to bring a presentation of the Salem-Keizer System of Assessing Student Threats to the community Thursday at the Montrose County Event Center.

“The program places an emphasis on whole family health,” said Laura Byard, regional director for The Center for Mental Health, in a release from Montrose County. “Ongoing assessments will help families and students engage with services, break down barriers and foster a collaborative effort for success.”

The program began with the creation of a Student Threat Assessment Team (STAT) consisting of professionals committed to finding a path to success for at-risk students.

The program was presented by John Van Dreal, a school psychologist and director of security, safety, and risk management for the Salem-Keizer School District in Oregon. Van Dreal covered the program background, basic principles and walked attendees through an example threat assessment case with audience questions at the end.

School District Director of Safety and Security James Pavlich opened the presentation saying that it had been a successful week for the participating organizations in Montrose.

“For the last four days we have trained 140 people,” said Pavlich. “They trained on Level I and Level II threat assessment tactics. We are excited about how we can support youth and families in our community.”

The training taught team members how to present an investigation to STAT. It starts from the ground up with team members on the district level alerting the STAT team if any behavioral issues arise. The next step is to gather information for the case and to establish a plan to get at-risk students on track for success.

Van Dreal emphasized that early prevention is at the core of the program. He said that the goal is to stop a students’ trajectory and to turn them around.

“We don’t profile potential [at-risk students],” said Van Dreal. “We look at what level of behavior and activity they are exhibiting and then determine interventions that are designed to address the concern.”

During that assessment process, Van Dreal said that teams will often pull resources from community experts and agencies that serve the youth in the community. He said this provides more perspectives when handling different cases. A diverse skill set and perspective is one of the reasons why the police department is part of the planning process as well.

“Police are natural investigators, and can help share that responsibility,” said Van Dreal. “There is safety in numbers and a balancing of moods and skill sets [when working together]. It’s not just one person making a decision.”

In a release from Montrose County, Cmdr. Matt Smith of the Montrose Police Department said that, “The most exciting aspects of this model for law enforcement are the front-end management of potential risks, and the supervision of those cases subsequent to their discovery. [The system] seeks to foster collaboration between community stakeholders, which is often lacking when addressing threats in our community.”

Another basic principle of the model is the type of language used by professionals and the public surrounding at-risk students.

“We want to use careful language when we refer to youth,” said Van Dreal. “Instead of labeling someone as a ‘violent student’ we need to change that so we are describing the child’s behavior. Instead we could say: he is in a situation that poses a risk for violence.”

To support more careful language, the threat assessment system looks at an aggression continuum by Eric Johnson, Ph.D. The continuum helps professionals determine whether an aggression is reactive or targeted. Threat assessment specifically serves to prevent targeted acts of aggression.

“Most of the interactions happening at a school level are reactive forms of aggression,” said Van Dreal. He explained this as children reacting to being told to do homework or go to detention.

“You have to look at the context of a situation and analyze the facts to determine whether someone plans on attacking,” said Van Dreal. “[Ask yourself] does the behavior meet the threat?”

Van Dreal used an example of a cat being backed into a corner. The cat will claw and hiss and bite because it feels threatened. Similarly, if a youth feels backed into a corner they will react. They will threaten, and they will say aggressive things out of anger. He said that it’s the STATS job to ask the question “does this person ‘pose’ a threat,” not “did the person ‘make’ a threat.”

One of the management strategies that Van Dreal presented is to increase the number of inhibitors present in a youth’s life. He said inhibitors are aspects of life such as employment, finances, health, or looking to the future.

“Often times these children don’t have these inhibitors or those things that make their lives meaningful,” said Van Dreal. “Our job is to put those inhibitors back into their life to nudge them on the right path.”

Van Dreal said that simply asking kids, “how can I help you with that,” makes a huge impact. He said most at-risk youth are missing a pro-social connection in their life that would make all the difference.

Van Dreal ended his presentation by reaffirming the importance of looking at the whole student and not vilifying them.

This approach to risk assessment can have a positive impact on communities because, as Van Dreal said, it helps take away the fear aspect that can interfere with the success of students. This community-approach model helps to increase the physical and psychological sense of safety in a community when it is known that potential risks are being addressed.

“I hope I’ve conveyed that we are pro-student and pro-safety,” said Van Dreal. “We want to provide respect and support [for students] to be able to do the right thing and to become good people.”

 

Montrose Daily Press

Emily Ayers is a staff writer for the Montrose Daily Press.  You can reach her at emilya@montrosepress.com
Montrose Daily Press | September 13, 2019
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Gunnison Country Times | September 12, 2019

Media Coverage: Trek For Life to aid those who can’t afford mental health treatment

By Media Coverage, News

Making care available to all

September 12, 2019 — Out of tragedy, a passion for helping others often is born.

Such is the case for the suicide prevention efforts of Crested Butte part-time resident Paul Uhl. Uhl lost his son, Kyle, to suicide less than a year ago. Kyle took his life in October 2018. He was only 27 years old.

But out of his pain, Uhl took action. He began to raise awareness of the problem in resort communities — and assist with fundraising — which helped lead to the opening of a mental health clinic in Crested Butte.

“People ask me, how can you find the strength after such a tragedy?” said Uhl. “I don’t know that I have the answer. It started with being curious about why people commit suicide. I began to learn about various risk factors… It energized me. This didn’t have to happen.”

But soon afterward, Uhl realized tackling suicide and implementing prevention strategies involved more than just opening a clinic. He wanted to make sure that those who are struggling the most have access to services.

Recognizing financial limitations of many community members, Uhl set out to continue the fundraising effort. This coming Saturday, Sept. 14, his idea to help others will take the next step — literally.

Uhl has planned and launched two events — Trek for Life and the Center for Mental Health fundraiser which follows.

A memorial hike will be held Saturday for those lost to suicide from the Maroon-Snowmass trailhead at Maroon Lake to the Schofield Park trailhead north of Crested Butte. The 10-mile hike will begin at 6:30 a.m., and once hikers reach Schofield, they can either bike, hike or drive the remaining 11.5 miles to the Elevation Hotel and Spa at the base of Mt. Crested Butte.

Elevate Bike Rentals will provide bikes at the trailhead.

Then, a Celebration of Life fundraiser will be held Saturday evening at the Elevation.

A buffet dinner will be served, along with live music by Crawford-based band Clifton Hanger and a live auction featuring Helly Hanson products and other items donated by area merchants.

Kimberly Behounek, Center for Mental Health’s regional director for Gunnison and Hinsdale counties, said her organization is humbled by Uhl’s efforts.

“The need for dollars to pay for treatment is real,” said Behounek. “We experience daily community members saying they want services but can not afford them. We are extremely grateful that Paul has identified the Center for Mental Health Crested Butte clinic as the recipient.”

Uhl said he’s not satisfied with just launching the inaugural event. He plans to make adjustments in the future as the fundraiser continues — and elevate education and outreach to prevent further suicides.

“Addressing risk factors to reduce suicides — that’s my motivation,” said Uhl. “Knowing the risk factors, we can prevent this. We’re already brainstorming about how to engage the community and have broader appeal. Let’s throw the 900-pound gorilla out on Elk Avenue.”

Gunnison Country Times
Chris Rourke is a Times staff writer and can be contacted at 970-641-1414 or chris.rourke@gunnisontimes.com
Gunnison Country Times | September 12, 2019
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Center for Mental Health, Telluride

Center for Mental Health Opens Telluride Office

By Media Coverage, News

The Center for Mental Health (CMH) recently opened a new downtown facility in Telluride at 100 West Colorado Ave. With the move, CMH will be able to offer more mental health resources.

The organization — a nonprofit that focuses on mental health care and well-being — offers services throughout the 10,000 miles of the Western Slope in serving Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties.

At the new center, the staff will offer mental-health assessments, medication management, family and individual therapy, support groups, suicide prevention, and grief, depression and anxiety counseling. With the new facility in Telluride, CMH will add 30 new certified behavioral health professionals.

The location will offer mental health therapy for children and adults, as well as family and individual counseling. There also will be expanded resources for substance abuse.

“We will continue to work with the mental health professionals already located in Telluride. This will simply offer the community more and expanded options,” said Shelly J. Spalding, The Center for Mental Health CEO, according to a news release.

CMH works with Dr. Rowlin Busch, the center’s lead clinician.

“He is a longtime Telluride resident and a really skilled clinician,” Laura Byard, CMH’s regional director for Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties for CMH, said in an interview with the Daily Planet.

Byard will be in charge of CMH operations in Telluride. Byard hopes that with the new facility, CMH will be able to offer community workshops and partner with other local services in providing access to expanded mental health resources. The box canyon can be isolating, as it can be difficult for people to find local options for mental health care along the Western Slope.

“Our mountain communities need and deserve high-quality behavioral health services close to home,” Byard said. “We are hoping to expand our services with the new location.”

Each community has different needs, she added, and with the new facility, the CMH will be able to respond more quickly and effectively in a local setting.

“Telluride is such a beautiful small community, and we really want to practice locally and support our community and neighbors,” she said.

In addition, CMH is expanding its jail-based services, as well as the supportive services that the organization offers in collaboration with local law enforcement.

“We are equally working with law enforcement in San Miguel County and Telluride around the co-responder program,” said Amanda Jones, CMH chief clinical officer.

CMH will have mental health professionals working alongside law enforcement to provide mental health support, Jones explained.

According to Byard, more people are seeking help for mental health.

“Thankfully, the taboo around mental health care is decreasing and people are seeking help. Our goal is to help our community learn about behavioral health and get the help they need to live life in Telluride to the fullest,” she said.

CMH encourages people to seek mental health care they needed, and for the community to support these initiatives.

“We are really continuing to provide education and collaboration across the community to show that mental health is just another part of health care,” Jones explained.

As part of its initiatives, CMH works to promote better education about mental health. The organization collaborates with other groups in the region such as local school districts, medical providers, Tri-County Health Network and human services.

Spalding hopes the new CMH office will be welcomed into the town of Telluride. An open house Thursday helped introduce people to the new facility. At the event, people were able to learn about the services that CMH provides. Clinicians were around as well so the community could meet the staff.

“Our goal is to continue to be part of the Telluride community and to increase our presence and the services we offer,” she said.

At the new facility in Telluride, people will be able to schedule appointments with certified clinicians. During drop-in hours, new clients can come in and set up plans to start receiving treatment. The office is located at 238 E. Colorado Ave. Suite 9, on the second floor of the U.S. Bank building.

For mental health emergencies or necessary short-term inpatient care, the Montrose CMH location offers a Crisis Walk-In Center that will be opened in mid-September. This center will provide detox services, walk-in care and crisis stabilization.

The Center for Mental Health accepts Medicare, Medicaid, most insurance, and offers a sliding fee schedule based on income. For more information, visit centermh.org.

Telluride Daily Planet
Written by Sophie Stuber, Planet Contributor
The Watch / Telluride Daily Planet | August 29, 2019
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The general population area is shown inside the Montrose County Detention Center Monday. The Montrose County Sheriff’s Office is receiving funds to improve jail-based mental health services. (Justin Tubbs/Montrose Daily Press)

Jails score $600K for mental health needs

By Media Coverage, News

The Center for Mental Health is a partner in new grant funding to increase jail-based behavioral health services in Montrose, Delta, San Miguel and Gunnison counties

April 2, 2019 — Jail-based mental health services are poised to increase in the 7th Judicial District, thanks to a state grant that brings more resources to Montrose, Delta, San Miguel and Gunnison counties.

“This will give us additional mental health clinicians inside of our jails, as far as monitoring the inmates, which will help them as far as suicide prevention and drug-use and addiction,” said Montrose County Sheriff Gene Lillard, whose agency is administering the Jail-Based Behavioral Health Services Mental Health Expansion grant on behalf of all four counties, in conjunction with The Center for Mental Health.

“This is going to be win-win for all of the counties and The Center for Mental Health. We’re very excited about this.”

The Gunnison and San Miguel county sheriffs could not be reached Monday for comment.

“It allows the Delta County Sheriff’s Office detention facility to have an (additional) mental health clinician in our jail who supports inmates with substance abuse and any other issues they might have, that they normally wouldn’t get in a jail setting,” Delta County Sheriff Mark Taylor said.

The two remaining counties in the 7th Judicial District, Hinsdale and Ouray, do not have their own jails.

The hefty grant consists of more than $165,000 for the last remaining months of this fiscal year, plus more than $507,000 for the fiscal year beginning July 1, Center for Mental Health grant writer Janey Sorensen said.

A final contract is pending with the state Office of Behavioral Health.

The award provides money to hire more full-time equivalent mental health service providers to work in the jails, based on a prior needs assessment that was conducted as part of the application process.

The funding also includes money for recovery support when an inmate is released, to help that person live successfully in the community, Sorensen said.

The grant’s program manager is an MCSO employee, who will work with a Center for Mental Health program coordinator. The two in turn will be working with the jail administrators in all four of the counties, as well as with existing mental health service provider for the jail, CHP.

Lillard said the grant fills critical needs in the 7th Judicial District, where drug addiction and a high suicide rate are serious issues and long-term residential mental health care services are lacking. The $600,000-plus that’s coming the jails’ way will help bring in more clinicians, he said.

Sorensen said an earlier grant, awarded in 2012, brought jail-based counseling services in, but there were “holes” in that program: those benefiting had to have a substance abuse issue; funding did not provide for medication and it did not pay for psychiatry.

“I think the state took a long look at this and decided to expand services to make them more comprehensive,” she said. “… This new grant fills all of those holes and it’s going to be such a wonderful thing for the region.”

The new grant is an extension to the 2012 grant, for which Delta County is the pass-through, Taylor said.

His jail, too, has existing clinician services and a trained mental health co-responder who can accompany officers on calls when circumstances require it is stationed at the DCSO.

Both grants have helped area jails, Taylor said.

“It’s been a big help to have clinicians stationed in our detention facility,” he said.

The most recent grant money came from a law passed last year, which allocated more funding for jail based behavioral services. “The state recognized the four jails in our region as eligible and in need of these services. It was generous on their part to target funds where they were needed,” Sorensen said.

“This will give us additional counselors on board,” Lillard said. “Right now, we are up to seven days a week, 20 hours a day, for counseling and medical, provided by CHP… This will give us more money to be able to monitor our inmates and help them in crisis.”

Montrose County Sheriff’s Office is the fiscal agent for the new grant, because it has the most inmates and need, he said.

The expansion of services fits with overall needs and enhances resources, Lillard said.

Montrose Daily Press

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter @kathMDP.
Montrose Daily Press | April 2, 2019
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Grand Opening

‘Quantum Leap’ for Mental Health with New Walk-In Center

By Media Coverage, News

Montrose Police Chief Blaine Hall recounted the “absolutely hellacious night” his patrol officers had March 26.

That night, the police juggled three simultaneous responses involving subjects experiencing mental health problems and substance intoxication. In one instance, dispatchers talked a person threatening self-harm into dropping his knife before officers arrived; he was taken to the hospital emergency room.

Now, however, there is another option for those experiencing a mental health crisis. On March 29, after a two-year process, The Center for Mental Health opened its 11-bed crisis stabilization unit and walk-in clinic at 300 N. Cascade Ave.

“This is really a quantum leap for better care,” Dr. Thomas Canfield, Montrose County coroner, said. Canfield is particularly concerned with suicides, which occur at a high rate on the Western Slope.

“We’ve had trouble getting suicidal (people) therapy and this can provide that. … It will be a great improvement,” he said.

Hall said the facility will help people like the knife-wielding subject from March 26.

“He would have been a great candidate to go to the center to help release some of the burden toward the hospital,” the chief said.

As its name implies the walk-in crisis center serves both walk-in clients and patients needing up to five days of bed-care, as well as offers detox services. People do not need to be brought in by law enforcement or other first responders to access the services.

The emergency stabilization unit serves Montrose, Delta, San Miguel, Hinsdale, Gunnison and Ouray counties. It all came about through the collaboration of multiple entities and partners, including Region 10, which moved out of the Cascade Avenue address and into property The Center had initially purchased to make into a crisis unit.

The approximately $3 million crisis unit project is supported by 24 founding donors and other funding. “It’s been a huge community collaboration from Day 1,” Shelly Spalding, Center for Mental Health CEO, said.

The crisis walk-in center won’t fill every gap in psychiatric services in the area, but it does meet some of the need and is expected to relieve some of the pressure on emergency rooms, which previously were among the few options for those in a mental health crisis.

Spalding said that as The Center for Mental Health’s board of directors gathered for a meeting a few days before the clinic opened, a man walked in seeking help.

“If we had any questions about whether this was needed, clearly it is,” she said.

Pressure valve

Chief Clinical Officer Amanda Jones walked police officers and other first responders through the new facility’s observation room, where people who likely do not need bed-care are assessed.

It is possible for people of any age to access this kind of walk-in care and those 15 and older can sign themselves in.

Clients who are deemed in need of bed care, which the crisis center can provide for up to five days, must be 12 or older. Those younger than 12 will be referred for hospital-level care. The center tries to connect with juveniles’ families, and when a guardian cannot be reached, it coordinates with Health and Human Services.

“We want adolescents and kids to be able to come here and to know that they can access us,” Jones said.

The crisis stabilization unit is secure from the rest of the facility and includes a separate entrance for law enforcement members to bring in people in crisis, without them having to be taken through the walk-in setting.

The unit is set up so that adolescents and adult clients can be kept separate, as required under certification rules.

Beds and furniture lacks sharp corners and are affixed to the floor or walls. In the bathrooms, fixtures like door handles are not weight-bearing and the shower head comes straight out of the wall. Beneath the grab bars, metal plating prevents bedding or clothing from being threaded through. It all creates a “ligature-free fixture” environment.

Two different pods to allow adults and adolescents to be separated. At no point are these two groups allowed to intermingle on the unit.

“This level of care is considered hospital-alternative,” Jones said. “ … we’re able to serve people here, quickly engage them in mental health treatment. If this is their community in our six-county region, The Center for Mental Health might be a major player in their treatment, so we’re able to rapidly do that from the beginning, versus them going to treatment at Mindsprings (Grand Junction or Glenwood Springs) or another location and we’re catching up after.”

The Center for Mental Health continues existing services, such as its mobile crisis team, which deploys 24/7 to provide onsite mental health assessments in emergencies. Its co-responder service, in which trained therapist respond to calls with officers, also continues, as do crisis respite services that provide up to two weeks of home-based services to clients, and emergency peer transport services.

The mobile crisis team and some of these other services will now be housed at the crisis center.

“That team really now joins this team, because we have expanded our 24-hour care. Additionally, we will continue with our peer transportation team that is going to continue to help transport people who might be at a hospital setting or other setting, here to the unit,” Jones said.

“ … It just offers us so many more opportunities, having 24-hour clinic care that we haven’t had.”

The new facility allows for what Robin Slater calls a “continuum of services.”

“Now that the crisis walk-in center is here, it offers a three- to five-day stay for individuals who are needing support, but not necessarily a full psychiatric hospitalization,” said Slater, The Center for Mental Health’s director of acute services.

“Now we go from the highest level of care (psychiatric hospitalization) to what we call a crisis stabilization unit for those individuals who can be stabilized within three to five days. Then they get to transfer to our outpatient services,” she said.

“Instead of this outpatient to psychiatric (care), now we have that in-between service to really expand service delivery.”

Slater said about 130 face-to-face assessments are conducted in emergency services each month, most occurring in emergency rooms — even though the client isn’t sick enough to be treated in such a setting, ER has often been the only option.

“Those (patients) definitely do not need medical attention. They are just experiencing either a substance abuse crisis or a behavioral health crisis. Now being able to offer 24/7 access to a walk-in clinic, we’re able to do those assessments in a safe, secure environment, designed for individuals with mental health issues, versus going to the hospital,” Slater said.

Montrose Fire Protection District Chief Tad Rowan welcomes the option.

“I think it fills a gap that is present in our community, particularly the emergency medical side,” he said.

“Once the protocols and procedures come into place, I can see this definitely taking significant loads off EMS (emergency medical services) agencies, as well as our emergency department. It’s something that our community truly needs.”

The crisis unit could also take pressure off of street officers, Delta Police Chief Lucas Fedler said. As is the case at Montrose law enforcement agencies, Delta officers routinely encounter people experiencing mental health issues, but the officers are not licensed counselors.

“That’s a huge concern. We’re not trained to deal with mental health issues. It’s taking away from our officers being on the street to handle other matters,” Fedler said.

“Having a facility like this is going to help free up our officers to do what they need to do.”

Montrose County Sheriff Gene Lillard also hailed the crisis unit opening.

“I think it’s outstanding. The MCSO will help them in any way we can, as far as security and transport, in conjunction with the Montrose Police Department,” he said. “We deal with a lot of mental health issues around the county.”

‘Incredible’

The need for more mental health services is substantial on the Western Slope. Without enough long-term care facilities, or crisis centers like the one The Center for Mental Health just opened, there was even a time when sheriffs were holding people in jail — on basis of mental health only, not suspected criminal conduct.

Fred McKee, former Delta County sheriff, remembers those days. They are part of what compelled him to become involved in developing solutions.

McKee served on a governor’s task force and through that, helped secure more money for services on the Western Slope. Some of the money was diverted into the project that helped fund the center.

“That’s something we were very proud to accomplish,” McKee said.

Spalding also reflected on the endeavor to establish more crisis services.

“October 2016 was when we came together as law enforcement, hospitals, human services and primary care practitioners and said ‘What do we need in our six-county region?’ Everybody said this is what we need,” she said.

“To think that two years later, we actually have it, is incredible.”

Montrose Daily Press
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter @kathMDP.
Montrose Daily Press | March 29, 2019
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