Media Coverage

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.”


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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Crisis Walk-In Center

Mental Health Crisis Walk-In Center Opens

By Media Coverage, News

After two-plus years of planning and preparation, the new Center for Mental Health Crisis Walk-In Center in Montrose will open Friday, bringing much-needed behavioral health services to the Western Slope, according to officials. The public is invited to the grand opening and open house from 3-6 p.m.; a ribbon cutting ceremony is planned for 4 p.m.
“I am ecstatic that we’re going to have this service in our region for our different communities,” center CEO Shelly J. Spalding said Wednesday.

The new facility at 300 N. Cascade Ave. includes a walk-in mental health clinic, a crisis stabilization unit, withdrawal management, a 24/7 regional crisis team, crisis respite services and emergency peer transport. The center, which will employ 30 staff members, will have four people on site at all times, as well as one mobile crisis team member on call. While the organization currently has clinics in Gunnison, Crested Butte, Hotchkiss, Delta, Montrose, Ridgway, Norwood and Telluride, the crisis center is a one stop shop for those in need of mental health and substance use care throughout Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties. The walk-in center, which cost approximately $3.2 million, is open to anyone and can accommodate up to 15 individuals at a time, depending on their respective needs.

“If someone is in crisis, we will see them, regardless of their ability to pay,” Spalding said.

CCO Amanda Jones explained there is limited access to mental health and substance use care throughout the Western Slope, especially emergency services, which made this project pertinent. The center has been working with local law enforcement officials and emergency service providers over the past several months to develop new referral protocols, she added.

“We’re taking the strain off of first responders, including EMS systems and law enforcement. We’re making sure the right people are providing the right services,” she said.

Jones said talks with regional police departments have gone well. San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters has long maintained that mental health and detox holds are a behavioral health issue, not a law enforcement one. The center provides short-term (three to five days) bed-based stabilization for people age 12 or older who are experiencing a severe behavioral health crisis, and 24-hour non-hospital detox for individuals who are intoxicated, in withdrawal or at risk of withdrawal.

“This decreases the unnecessary use of hospital emergency departments, jails, prisons or other settings not clinically appropriate for mental health or behavioral health emergencies,” according to a news release.

The new facility also decreases the long drives to adequate care and allows those in need to remain close to family and friends that are often the individual’s first support system.

“Patients in need of urgent behavioral health care, including mental health and substance abuse emergency services, currently travel as much as three hours (good weather permitting) on the Western Slope or five hours to the Front Range to access care,” according to the release. “In addition to putting lives at risk, this distance makes it nearly impossible for families to visit and support their loved ones during recovery. A local facility will impact the lives of people seeking behavioral health services in our community and ensure people can get the critical support they need.”

Plus, there are the mobile crisis management services, which are part of a larger initiative that the center is “aggressively trying to increase” involving the regional clinics, Jones said.

“Part of what we’ve done with our mobile crisis is trying to have our clinicians that are at our regional locations being more available to do mobile crisis evaluation in the community,” she explained.

Twenty-four regional entities contributed money for the acquisition and remodel of the new center’s building, Spalding said. For more information, visit or call 970-252-6220.

Telluride Daily Planet
Written by Justin Criado, Editor
The Watch / Telluride Daily Planet | March 28, 2019
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