GLENWOOD SPRINGS - Colorado West Regional Mental Health Center has launched a centralized, round-the-clock toll-free help line for people dealing with a mental health crisis.
A toll-free call to 1-888-207-4004 will put callers in direct touch with a trained clinician who will listen, assist, evaluate and connect them to the right services in order to avert or manage a mental health crisis.
The emergency services number is staffed by trained mental health clinicians 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without exception.
Colorado West serves a 10-county area on the Western Slope, including Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit counties.
The help line was launched a day after Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a five-point, $18 million plan to redesign and strengthen Colorado's mental health services and support system.
Tish Starbuck, vice president of Colorado West, said the timing of the two announcements was not planned.
"It just landed together," Starbuck said. "It shows we are all in alignment with what the governor is thinking and what needs to be done."
Starbuck said Colorado West has for years offered 24-hour crisis lines in all 10 Western Slope counties that it serves.
"What is new is rather than these calls going to separate numbers in each county, they'll be coming to a central crisis center in Grand Junction," she said.
The trained crisis workers will screen the call and assess the situation, she said. If they determine the person on the line is an imminent threat, or if the caller is in imminent danger from someone they are calling about, the local crisis worker will be paged to go out and handle the situation, in coordination with local police.
"It's a more systematic approach that supports our crisis workers in the field," Starbuck said. When a local crisis worker gets the call, they know it's a real crisis, rather than a situation that can be defused over the telephone.
Colorado West has been actively providing emergency mental health services for more than 40 years.
From July 2011 through June 2012, Colorado West staff responded to nearly 7,000 crisis incidents in its 10-county service area.
Colorado West is a nonprofit organization that offers mental health, behavioral change and substance abuse services from 13 outpatient offices throughout the Western Slope and at a psychiatric hospital in Grand Junction.