Media Coverage

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
 Print or download article
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
 Print or download article

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
 Print or download article

CMH Crisis Walk-in Center in Montrose

Entities win grants to ramp up addiction treatment

By Media Coverage, News

Enhanced levels of substance use treatment are in the pipeline for Montrose, which experts hope will lead to lower addiction rates.

The Center for Mental Health and River Valley Family Health Center each recently received a cut of $4.6 million made available to rural communities through the state Office of Behavioral Health. The grant fund was established under a law passed last year to help increase resources for rural areas grappling with addiction. The local allocations are being disbursed through the managed service organization, West Slope Casa.

The Center received almost $515,000, which it will use to develop an intensive outpatient treatment program, and River Valley nabbed about $240,000 that will help it add a dedicated provider for medication assisted treatment for addiction.

“We were excited to be recipients,” said Amanda Jones, chief clinical officer for the Center for Mental Health.

The Center has two targets: the intensive outpatient treatment, based in Montrose and open to other substance use treatment providers for referrals, plus increasing professional training and credentialing of staff.

“The reason for our interest in wanting to expand this particular level of care is, one, that regionally, we do not have an active, open community referral for intensive outpatient treatment,” Jones said.

This type of programming is offered multiple times a week, with varying levels of treatment intervention, including individual and family therapy, psychiatric or medical support, and a strong group treatment format, plus wraparound services.

“It really is taking what is that next level of treatment intervention for people to provide a higher level of care, so that people are getting active and engaged treatment, and so we can hopefully intervene at that level and help people transition and continue to live in the community,” Jones said.

This type of treatment can prevent the need for higher-level care.

“For us, this really was the next level of care to build from outpatient, but also to have a level of substance use treatment that would help to hopefully prevent the need for longer-term residential treatment where people are needing to be outside of their homes and potentially disrupting their homes or other family members and community members,” Jones said.

Expanding the training and professional credentials of the Center’s workforce will bring another level of expertise to treatment locations, including the detox beds at the Center’s walk-in crisis clinic. More substance use treatment services would flow into the counties where care is provided, as a regional workforce is developed.

The grant allocation constitutes a two-year award, with the possibility of additional funding, and will be used to develop the Center’s framework for intensive outpatient treatment.

The other grant recipient, River Valley, is a federally qualified health clinic with offices in Olathe, Montrose and Delta. It has six providers who are able to write prescriptions for Suboxone, a medication used in medication assisted treatment. But all six of these providers also focus on primary care. The $240,000 River Valley received will be used to hire a provider just for medication assisted treatment, and a nurse. Some of the money also will be applied to the salary of the clinic’s part-time care coordinator.

“Substance abuse is still an issue,” River Valley CEO Jeremy Carroll said. “This grant allows us to allocate an entire medical provider to only the focus of substance use and medication assisted therapy.”

The nurse the clinic is adding will work closely with that provider. The nurse also will be able to visit clients’ homes for induction into medication assisted therapy.

There is a clear need for more substance abuse treatment options, Carroll and Jones said. Although addiction knows no county boundary — and according to the Office of Behavioral Health, more than 54,000 residents received treatment and detox services in fiscal year 2018-19 — the state recognized an acute need in rural areas, which have fewer resources.

“When you look at the needs assessment completed by River Valley, Montrose Memorial Hospital, Delta County Memorial Hospital and the Gunnison hospital, all four of those entities had mental health, substance abuse and opioid addiction in the top of their needs assessment,” Carroll said.

“I feel like there is very much an indicated need for this level of care. … Intensive outpatient programming is a recognized level of care of substance use treatment,” Jones said.

“We have not had that level of care for referral. By not having this level of care before, we’re very excited to be able to, quite frankly, see the impact this will bring to our community.”

Montrose Daily Press

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.
Montrose Daily Press | March 29, 2020
 Print or download article

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
 Print or download article
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
 Print or download article
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
Montrose Daily Press | September 13, 2019
 Print or download article