Leaders from area mental health organizations convened Tuesday for their annual conversation with Mind Springs Health President and CEO Sharon Raggio about the state of mental health in Moffat County.
Mind Springs Health is a 42-year-old nonprofit organization that provides mental wellness, behavioral change and substance abuse treatment and services to a 23,000-square-mile area in Northwestern Colorado with offices in 13 locations along the Western Slope, according to its website.
The organization also operates the only psychiatric hospital between Denver and Salt Lake City, West Springs Hospital in Grand Junction, which Raggio announced would soon be expanded.
“One of the things our organization has been very concerned about is the availability of psychiatric hospital beds in the area,” Raggio said.
The Western Slope falls far behind the national average with only six psychiatric hospital beds available per 100,000 people compared to 14 per 100,000 nationwide.
Mind Springs purchased 3 acres of property adjacent to West Springs and is planning to more than triple the number of beds, bringing the total from 32 to 76, which, according to their research, should be sufficient to serve the region’s population through 2030.
In the last year, Mind Springs experienced a 30 percent increase in the number of crisis calls and requests received, according to Raggio.
“We all are very concerned about the issue of suicide in Colorado and the Western Slope. We know that it’s higher than it is on the Front Range,” Raggio said. “This is one of the biggest services we can do for our community, is to be available 24/7, 365 days a year.”
According to the organization’s crisis data analysis, in 90 percent of crisis cases, providers were able to successfully keep individuals safe in the community without sending them to the hospital. What’s more, among individuals that contacted Mind Springs for crisis support, there were zero suicides one month later.
During the meeting, Raggio announced that Mind Springs is adding new staff, including three new psychiatrists, one of which is both a child psychiatrist and pediatrician based in Vail, and six new advanced practice nurses. Though none of these staff are based locally, they increase the overall availability of mental health services to Western Slope residents with the aid of telehealth technology, which is employed at the Craig Mind Springs location.
“I just call it glorified Skype to kids,” said Craig Thornhill, director of the Craig Mind Springs location. He observed that children are more open to using the technology than adults.
Other developments include new crisis staff for the Craig Mind Springs location to ease the load on regular mental healthcare providers, a new mental health program for Moffat County schools and discussion of providing mental health training to Craig police officers.
“I don’t think there’s one 24-hour period that goes by that we don’t get some kind of mental health call,” said Cmdr. Bill Leonard, of the Craig Police Department. “It’s been busy.”
Contact Lauren Blair at 970-875-1794 or lblair@CraigDailyPress.com.