Glenwood Springs City Council approves $150K for youth mental health services

Ellen Fike
Special to the Post Independent

The Glenwood Springs City Council approved a $150,000 request for youth mental health services in the area during its first meeting of the month Thursday night.

The funding will come from tobacco taxes. Last year, the tobacco tax fund saw about $900,000 in revenue; $750,000 was earmarked for the general fund to offset revenue lost due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The other $150,000 was earmarked for “funding a community need,” according to the city’s staff report and recommendation regarding the funding.

“In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its overwhelming impact on youth mental health, staff supports this request,” the report said.

Roaring Fork School District superintendent Rob Stein and family services director Anna Cole presented to the council on Thursday night, detailing the need for the money in the community.

“We’re proposing that the city fund services that can reach kids in our schools or any kid who lives in our communities,” Stein said. “It doesn’t matter what district or school they’re enrolled in.”

Specifically, $120,000 was intended for staffing a mental/behavioral health therapist at Glenwood Springs Elementary School and Sopris Elementary School. The remaining $30,000 was to go to YouthZone to increase their services and resources in the community’s schools.

“It’s possible that these community partnerships really increase student access to mental and behavioral health and help us strengthen these connections that build strong positive social and emotional skills in our little kids,” Cole said.

Stein noted the importance of implementing programs, initiatives and resources for youth mental health through some statistical research, which showed marijuana use among teens in Colorado had increased between 2017 and 2019, along with suicidal ideation.

Current Roaring Fork School District-funded mental health-related programs and initiatives include:

  • A bilingual/bicultural family liaison at each school who partners with families, schools and communities to identify and work toward goals of self-reliance and sustainability through case management, resource and referral services;
  • A counselor at each school;
  • A health aide at every school, along with district nurses who coordinate and implement in-school medical services;
  • A special education program psychologist and social workers;
  • Crisis intervention services;
  • Social-emotional wellness curriculum;
  • Health education curriculum;
  • And trauma-informed practices.

Externally-funded mental health resources for the district include three prevention specialists, two mental health providers and a family-focused district social worker. The external funding comes from various sources, including taxes of marijuana sales, fundraising and grants from the Colorado Department of Education.

“We have great concern about the mental well-being of the youth in our communities,” Stein said. “We know that people are struggling even more [during the pandemic]. The bright news is that when we work together, we’re able to contradict the trends.”

The council was incredibly supportive of the request, mainly asking questions about external funding and some of the programs involved.

The council ultimately unanimously agreed to the request, other than councilor Paula Stepp, who recused herself during the discussion.

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