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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
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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
Gunnison Country Times | September 12, 2019
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The Center for Mental Health, Telluride

The Center for Mental Health Expands to New Telluride Location

By News, Press Release


Jackie Brown-Griggs

Telluride, Colorado — August 29, 2019 — Due to increasing behavioral healthcare needs in the Telluride community, The Center for Mental Health (CMH) has moved to a new location downtown to better serve the community. A community open house is scheduled for Thursday, August 29th from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. where the community can come to meet clinicians and learn more about the services offered.  Comments from CMH leadership are scheduled for 2 p.m.

Currently, comprehensive behavioral health services are limited based on the needs of the population. “We understand the need for these services given the research we have done in the communities we serve,” said Shelly J. Spalding, CEO of The Center for Mental Health. “We are fully anticipating that we will continue to work with the mental health professionals already located in Telluride. This will simply offer the community more and expanded options.”

Staffed with certified behavioral health professionals, the Telluride location  will offer a convenient, local resource for mental and behavioral healthcare services such as comprehensive mental-health assessments, medication management, family and individual therapy, substance use and abuse treatment, support groups, suicide  prevention as well as grief, depression, and anxiety counseling. “Our mountain communities need and deserve high-quality behavioral health services close to home,” added Laura Byard, CMH’s regional director who oversees operations in Telluride.  “Thankfully the taboo around mental healthcare 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.”

The Western Slope, an area of approximately 10,000 square miles, has had limited access to behavioral health services, but CMH is making strides in filling the void.

The new Telluride location  will offer appointments during regular business hours, as well as walk-in times when new clients can come in to get started on treatment. “Our goal is to continue to be part of the Telluride community and to increase our presence and the services we offer,” added Spalding. In the event someone has a mental health emergency crisis or needs short-term inpatient care, they will be able to get services from the new Crisis Walk-In Center, opening to the public in mid-September. The Crisis Walk-In Center, located in Montrose, will offer detox services, walk-in care, and crisis stabilization as well as inpatient care, if needed.

The Center for Mental Health is a nonprofit organization seeking to promote mental health and well-being. It provides behavioral health services across 10,000 square miles including Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel counties. The Center for Mental Health accepts Medicare, Medicaid, most insurance, and offers a sliding fee schedule based on income. Visit to learn more.

# # #

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

Telluride Daily Planet
Written by Sophie Stuber, Planet Contributor
The Watch / Telluride Daily Planet | August 29, 2019
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The Center for Mental Health, Crested Butte

New Center for Mental Health Location Opens in Crested Butte

By News, Press Release


Jackie Brown-Griggs

Crested Butte, CO — June 6, 2019 — The Center for Mental Health (CMH) will open new offices in Crested Butte offering behavioral services to the community. The Center will work closely with the area’s health care professionals to inform the community that behavioral health counseling is available in a confidential and appropriate setting. Services will be available Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed for lunch 1:00 to 2:00).

Currently, comprehensive behavioral health services are limited based on the need of the population. “We are excited to work with local health care professionals to expand the mental health services available to our community,” said Kimberly Behounek, LPC, CACIII, Regional Director for Gunnison and Hinsdale counties. “The combination of peer support, substance-abuse counseling, mental health therapy and medication management services will make CMH another resource for those needing help.” CMH will offer these services at an important time when the need for behavioral health care is on the rise. “The community recognized the need and came together to make it happen,” added Behounek. “It wouldn’t be possible without Gunnison Valley Health and local philanthropic dollars.”

“There was no question that we needed to expand mental health resources to Crested Butte,” said Rob Santilli, CEO, Gunnison Valley Health. “Together with CMH and the local independent practitioners, we are identifying innovative programs that will help make a positive impact in our community,” he said. “The addition of our joint peer support specialists who have experience at both ends of the Valley demonstrates our commitment to build effective outreach programs that will connect those in need. We are pleased to be part of the solution to help create a healthier community,” added Santilli.

The Western Slope, an area of approximately 10,000 square miles, has had limited access to behavioral health services, but CMH is making strides in fulfilling the void. “We are honored to be a reputable, integral provider of behavioral health services in our communities,” said Shelly J. Spalding, CEO of the Center for Mental Health. “Providing behavioral health services in Crested Butte has been a priority and we look forward to meeting the needs of folks in Crested Butte close to home. In addition, residents of Crested Butte will have access to the services offered by our new Crisis Walk-In Center in Montrose, 24 hours a day, 7 days week without having to drive to Grand Junction or Durango in a crisis situation.” The Center accepts Medicaid, Medicare and certain insurance and offers a sliding fee schedule based on income.

“Our family was faced with an unspeakable tragedy when our son, Kyle took his life,” said Paul Uhl, part-time resident and philanthropist. “We believe the opening of CMH is only the tip of the iceberg and it’s critical in addressing this and other issues in our community.” Uhl and other community leaders were all impressed how the community came together to make this location a reality in raising the necessary funds.

Serving all ages, the new location will also treat children and adolescents with a part-time therapist with pediatric training. “We are at a turning point in our ability to serve the pediatric and adolescent populations,” said Laura Rogers, nurse practitioner at CMH Crested Butte. “With more kids facing depression, anxiety and suicidal tendencies, it’s critical to have someone with whom they can talk.” If it’s determined that someone has greater needs than the treatment options available in Crested Butte can address, the Center can refer them to another contact in the area near Crested Butte.  “The need for mental health care can truly be a life and death situation when someone reaches out for help,” emphasized Uhl.

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

# # #

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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CMH Crisis Walk-in Center in Montrose

CMH Announces Opening of Crisis Walk-In Center this Spring

By News, Press Release


Jackie Brown-Griggs

Montrose, Colorado — March 29, 2019 — This spring, The Center for Mental Health (The Center or CMH) will open a state-of-the-art Crisis Walk-In Center in Montrose that will provide essential crisis behavioral health services to the six counties of Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray, and San Miguel. Currently, those services are not available or are available on a limited scale. The Center for Mental Health will work closely with these communities to ensure that their population has access to urgent behavioral healthcare they may need in the most appropriate and effective of settings. All services will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with walk-in availability. On Friday, March 29, a community open-house was held to give the community, first responders, providers and supporters an opportunity to tour the facility prior to opening.

Last year, The Center for Mental Health responded to nearly 3,500 crisis behavioral situations across the region, largely through its mobile crisis support services. These may include everything from a community member experiencing a severe depressive episode to an overdose to a suicide attempt. “Although our mobile services may have been effective in the treatment of those in need of mental health triage, a mobile service certainly cannot meet the current demand effectively,” said Shelly J. Spalding, Chief Executive Officer for The Center for Mental Health. “The Western Slope community is in dire need of a resource where those with behavioral health episodes can get the care they need, close to home.”

Approximately 10,000 square miles, the six-county region has limited access to urgent behavioral health services. Patients in need of mental health and substance-abuse emergency services, oftentimes travel hundreds of miles to Grand Junction, Durango, or Denver to access care. “In many cases, patients from our area travel four to six hours to a larger city to get the urgent care they need,” said Amanda Jones, Chief Clinical Officer. “That’s simply not acceptable and our citizens deserve better.” 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 positively impact the lives of people seeking behavioral health services in the community and ensure people can access the critical support they need close to home.

The new Crisis Walk-In Center will provide both mental health and substance abuse services. An on-site, no-appointment-needed Walk-In Clinic will offer rapid response care and then provide patients outpatient services once the crisis is stabilized. “We expect to manage 96 percent of all regional behavioral health episodes in Montrose at the Crisis Walk-in Center,” added Spalding. “For anyone who must leave this region for inpatient care, the care we offer in Montrose will serve as pivotal step down from the hospitalization to living and recovering at home with familial and friend support.

The integrated planning team has worked diligently to ensure that the community will have access to this care when needed. “Our goal is to treat anyone who needs care regardless of their ability to pay,” said Kjersten Davis, Chairman of the Board for CMH. “When a person is faced with a behavioral health crisis, that isn’t the time to turn them away because they may not be able to pay. We are working closely with our third-party payers to make sure most insurance providers will support their care.”

Serving all ages, the new Crisis Walk-In Center will treat children and adolescents as well; currently, these services are nonexistent on the Western Slope. “The adolescent population who needs bed-based mental health or substance abuse care are typically sent to the Front Range. As you can well imagine, this creates a significant burden for parents, friends and extended family members to offer support, resulting in extra stress and trauma for everyone,” adds Jones who brings extensive knowledge of mental health care for the adolescent population.

Substance Abuse Withdrawal Management will be another key service provided. Currently, there are very limited bed-based detox services on the Western Slope. Individuals in need of detox services may access the Walk-In Clinic for an assessment. If the on-site medical providers determine that hospitalization isn’t warranted, outpatient detox therapies will be administered where family members and friends are a welcome part of the treatment process.

In addition to serving the overall community, the burden on law enforcement will be significantly reduced. The Crisis Walk-In Center will help reduce the guess work for first responders who are managing people experiencing behavioral health episodes so they can better determine where the patient should be transported. Currently, when first responders come across an individual exhibiting unusual behavior, one of the options is jail, which is not the calmest location when someone is in their most fragile and vulnerable condition. “The staff at The Center has taken great strides in bridging the gap in immediate care and response for our citizens,” said detective Phil Rosty of the Montrose Police Department. “We are currently partnering police officers across the region with mental health professionals to ensure we provide the best service to those in need. As first responders, this resource provides a specialized and valuable resource for our responding officers to utilize while helping those in crisis.”

The Crisis Walk-In Center will employ nearly 30 people; it will have 11-15 inpatient and observation beds, and can treat approximately 16 people at any given time. “After extensive due diligence, we discovered a need for a facility of this kind was dire,” said Kjersten Davis. “After we raised more than $3 million through public and private funding, we were able to create a place where our citizens can access quality mental health services available for people of all ages and walks of life, void of barriers, physical, cultural, or financial.”

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

# # #

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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