Garfield County commissioners ‘blindsided’ by Mind Springs criticism
Representatives from Mind Springs Health presented to the Garfield County Board of Commissioners in the wake of media and community criticism and a state audit Friday morning.
A Colorado News Collaborative series titled “On Edge” focused on mental health issues across the state, with a heavy focus on Mind Springs Health, the largest behavioral health provider on the Western Slope, serving 10 counties. Two counties — Eagle and Summit — have ceased their partnerships with the group in recent years due to perceived failures to serve those communities. In light of the series, Mind Springs’ CEO Sharon Raggio resigned.
“I have never fielded a criticism or phone call, email, text about service from your organization,” Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson said in the meeting. “It really blindsided me when I heard other counties that were really upset, just really upset and accusations were flying.”
Concerns centered around capacity and service of the local Latino community but did not offer the same criticisms seen in other places around a lack of financial transparency and unfulfilled promises.
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario said from a “cop on the street” perspective, most of his issues stem from a lack of resources that isn’t unique to Mind Springs and navigating the changing landscape of behavioral health-law enforcement interaction.
“I’m OK with what’s happening here in Garfield County to the level of services they’re able to provide,” Vallario said. “Would it be nice if they could double that amount of services? Of course.”
Interim Mind Springs CEO Doug Pattison, Executive Vice President Michelle Hoy, Garfield County Outpatient Director Hans Lutgring and Public Relations Director Stephanie Keister sat before the board. Pattison, previously in the role of chief financial officer, presented on demographics and service rates in addition to some basic financial figures from a June 2021 audit conducted by BKD, a national CPA and advisory group. He promised fiscal transparency from the organization.
“We’re working hard to have the confidence of our communities as we do our work,” Pattison said.
Presented data showed a total revenue of $2.1 million in Garfield County in the 2020 fiscal year to a net loss of $255,829.
Locally, data showed that Mind Springs produced 13,913 services in the previous fiscal year in Garfield County in 2021, an increase of 22.5% from 2020. It served 75.5% non-Hispanic and 24.5% Hispanic patients over the previous 12 months.
Sharon Longhurst-Pritt from the Garfield County Department of Human Services, Joshua Williams from Public Health and county manager Kevin Batchelder also spoke.
Local municipality representatives also expressed a level of satisfaction with Mind Springs’ offerings, highlighting its proposed detox facility as a positive contribution to the area.
“I honestly believe that the sentiment in Garfield County is more of what we see in our other counties,” Keister told the Post Independent following the conclusion of the meeting. “I think we’re appreciated in many of the counties that we support.”
Raggio resigned Jan. 4, saying her “continued presence within the organization may act as a distraction from our core mission of delivering exceptional mental health and addiction recovery care to the communities we serve.”
On Wednesday, three state agencies announced the audit of the organization, which receives $437 million in tax money across its 17 mental health centers.
Neither Samson nor Commissioner Tom Jankovsky cited concerns around Mind Springs’ local financial decisions. The local branch moved to a Grand Avenue location in 2021.
Commissioner John Martin was absent from the meeting.
Locally, the sentiment that Mind Springs is failing the community is not felt among leaders.
“From my perspective, maybe Mind Springs is too big, you need to let Eagle and Summit County go,” Jankovsky said. “That’s just my personal comments, but I haven’t had, even from the care of clients, a lot of negative comments come back to me as a commissioner about Mind Springs.”
Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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