Caitlin Row

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November 20, 2012
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A Mesa County mental health nonprofit grows its services

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Strategic and collaborative mental health treatments can mean the difference between success and continued illness. And Colorado West Mental Health, a nonprofit based in Grand Junction with services spanning 10 counties, is both growing its care continuum and re-branding.

Colorado West CEO and President Sharon Raggio, who came on board in 2008, "has completely transformed the organization fiscally, operationally and clinically," Colorado West Marketing Director Chriss Flynn said.

One example of transformation focuses on how well Colorado West Hospital (an in-patient psychiatric hospital in Grand Junction) has fared in recent state audits of its facility and services. Raggio said within the past few weeks three sets of auditors (who arrived unannounced) evaluated all aspects of the hospital over seven days with very positive results.

"All three audits said we were really doing a great job," Raggio said. "Of course, there are always a few areas to improve on, but there were no deficiencies. ... I am so proud of the hospital."

Similar audits conducted in 2008 left room for improvement, she added.

With continued growth and lots of recent success, Colorado West's board of directors is currently exploring how to change the face of the nonprofit even further by re-branding the organization.

Any changes would likely take effect in July 2014, and a new name for the for Colorado West organization as a whole could be part of the effort.

"We are a different organization today," Raggio said. "We want to dissipate any old thoughts of Colorado West, and we're in the process of looking at how we can do that."

In Grand Junction alone, Colorado West has a psychiatric hospital, a detox facility, a Women's Recovery Center, plus a variety of outpatient services spanning numerous needs and intensity of therapies. Across the state, it has offices all the way to Eisenhower Tunnel, north to the border, and across the Western Slope.

"We saw 14,500 people across all of our programs in (the 2012 fiscal year)," Raggio said.

One unique treatment option - Colorado West's Grand Junction Women's Recovery Center - allows pregnant women and mothers with children to stay as a family while the women recover from addiction issues. It's only one of two like that in the state.

Plus, Grand Junction's psychiatric hospital serves a large population, not just people living in Mesa County.

"Without the hospital, patients (throughout Colorado) would have to go to Salt Lake or the Front Range," Raggio said.

Another interesting fact: Mesa County's detox center is Colorado West's largest facility of its kind (it has three other locations, too, in Frisco, Steamboat Springs and Vail/Eagle County). Grand Junction's detox center has 16 beds, and it treats both men and women.

The local detox center treats a high volume of Grand Valley residents each year, officials said. In 2011, GJ's detox facility served 697 unduplicated clients and, in 2012, the most recent number reported is 657. Alcohol intoxication is the most common ailment treated locally, with alcohol dependence coming in second. Detox centers also treat for addictions to stimulants, opiates and sedatives. This was reported in a detailed funding request sent to the City of Grand Junction recently, which was approved to the tune of $30,000.

"City Council decided to provide funding to Colorado West Mental Health in 2013 due to the importance of the service they provide," Mayor Bill Pitts said. "They do something that no other organization does, and our public-safety employees rely on them as a key player when dealing with mental health and substance abuse issues."

Mental-health services aren't simply directed at adults, either.

"There is a national shortage of child psychiatrists, but we do have a number on staff, as well as one of the few geriatric psychiatrists in the state," Flynn said." And yes, we serve children and adolescents at both hospital and outpatient offices."

Colorado West's scope of services has additionally grown over the years.

"We treat the whole person," Raggio said, using evidence-based practices. And clinicians and therapists work hard to "engage and motivate patients to say in treatment because it works."

So many improvements, in fact, have made Colorado West's mental health treatment plans some of the top rated in the state, Raggio added. And, by connecting the "head to the body" with integrative care and evidence-based practices, patients are seeing a high recovery rate throughout Colorado.

According to Flynn, Colorado West started in 1972 as a variety of offices loosely banded together to provide mental health services for Colorado residents. And before Raggio came on, the organization was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. But in the years since 2008, Colorado West has become both fiscally sound and innovative in its treatment options.

The budget has grown over the years, too, as services have been added.

Raggio noted that Colorado West's overall budget has reached $27 million (including regional offices and the hospital) and it employs about 400 people. In Mesa County, 7,600 people were seen in Colorado West's outpatient and residential services offered through its mental health center.

"This included outpatient mental health and substance abuse, detox, (the) women's recovery center, vocational services, crisis services (24/7 response) and Oasis Clubhouse," Raggio said.

The budget for all Mesa County services (not including the hospital) is $8.4 million and 90 staff members work in the area. The hospital's budget is $9.5 million and has 110 staff serving 1,050 people during the 2012 fiscal year.

To fund its operations, the large nonprofit must reach out to a variety of entities, Flynn said. "We receive federal and state contract dollars, grants, and we rely on the generosity of donors. A true development director was also brought on recently."

For more information about Colorado West Mental Health, visit

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The Post Independent Updated Nov 29, 2012 04:03PM Published Nov 20, 2012 03:02PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.