Real and Deep: The Impact of Losing the Mental Health Crisis Contract in Grand County
July 19, 2019
by Jen Fanning, Executive Director, Grand County Rural Health Network
Mental health is hard. No matter how you look at it.
As an individual, the social stigma of having a mental illness is hard. For a rural community, supporting a mental health care system is even harder. As a newly-appointed member of the task force for the Office of Behavioral Health, I have a lot of hard work ahead of me for the next year.
County, state, and national data all show that mental health illnesses are an epidemic. Grand County’s last two Public Health Improvement Plans (2013 and 2018) both identified mental health as the top community health priority. Because of this we revised our community mental health strategic plan 5 years ago and worked with Mind Springs Health to meet the need for crisis care in our community.
Are you confused about what impact Mind Springs Health losing the crisis contract has on Grand County? If you are, you are NOT alone.
Here’s OUR basic explanation about the impact on our community. Our local Mind Springs Health has two lines of service:
1) Therapy and psychiatry provided during regular office hours. There are so many different services within this. This line of service will NOT be impacted.
2) Crisis response. This is the line of service that they lost. Crisis response are providers that respond in ERs, jails, at homes and work, when someone calls 911 or the crisis line because of a mental health emergency. Providers do assessments and determine if someone is safe to go home with a safety plan or if they should be hospitalized to help overcome the crisis.
Mind Springs Health has been doing this work in our county and other surrounding counties. They also had their own crisis line where another Mind Springs Health employee answered and directed to a local person. Plus, Mind Springs Health used to be able to take mental health emergency walk-in’s at their Granby office.
The sudden and unforeseen contract change for emergency mental health care in Grand County takes away the Crisis response part of our local Mind Springs Health services and the Granby office will no longer have the ability to do mental health emergency walk-in’s, except for existing patients.
In 2017 and 2018, Mind Springs Health responded to nearly 500 calls and responded in-person in some way to over half of those. The call volume in 2019 has been even higher. While that may seem like a small number of people for our community, that is still a significant impact because these are your neighbors in an emergency situation.
The impact is real and deep.
All crisis calls should be directed to the Colorado Crisis Services Hotline: 844-493-TALK (8255) or text “TALK” to 38255.
The impact of losing the Crisis response contract will have a significant effect on our friends, family, and neighbors in an emergency situation. Our partners and my office are working to figure out who will be providing those emergency services in the ER, jail, home and work environments. Our community prefers that Mind Springs Health continues in this role, while making room to improve the delivery of services and better support the crisis workers and people needing crisis assessments. The contract is being re-negotiated; we should know by the end of August who will have the contract. We want to support Mind Springs to make improvements or the new company to know and understand the partners and services available, all of which are essential to success.
As a result of this loss and with the increasing epidemic of mental health illnesses in our community, I found it necessary to shift nearly all my attention onto the subject of mental health. I have been living and breathing mental health in all ways for months. Through these discussions over the recent months, and years in my role here, I have gained insight on the issues impacting people needing care, as well as for our providers and professional stakeholders. I want to figure out a strategic way to implement change and try to stop lives from being lost.
Beginning in March, I’ve pulled together nearly 20 people representing key human services, consumers, and other partners interested in mental health. We have been working on a community-wide strategic plan to improve mental health services in Grand County over the next 5 years. We want to see the needle change and be strategic in our efforts so that what we do, individually and as agencies, works together to improve the big picture of mental health.
And we won’t stop until we have done so.