Mental health services spotlighted at Friday symposium in Glenwood Springs
To start her discussion on collaboration at a behavioral and mental health symposium in Glenwood Springs Friday, Pitkin County Public Health Director Karen Koenemann polled the room to see if they were happy with the mental health system in their community.
Colorado Health Foundation Director of Public Policy Kyle Legleiter thought it was telling that not one person in the room raised their hand, especially since the people in the room were from every corner of Colorado.
“Two, five, 10 years from now we want to change that story for Colorado communities,” Legleiter said.
The symposium, hosted by the Colorado Health Foundation, was one of several that the nonprofit organization will host this year as officials hope to learn more about the challenges each community is facing.
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In the past year alone, Garfield County health professionals have seen a spike in suicides, while health care institutions continue to look for alternatives to using opioids for patients.
“In every county we visit, we hear the community is struggling with different health challenges,” Legleiter said. “It’s really important for us to go out to communities outside Denver and share stories with people from across the state.”
He hoped it was a meaningful conversation whether the attendees were coming in as a health official, or had their own questions regarding behavioral or mental health.
The all-day event featured a variety of speakers including regional leaders and public health officials from northwest Colorado, as well as community leaders discussing what mental health services and resources were needed in their community and what they did to get them.
Larimer County health official Lin Wilder discussed how leaders in health, law enforcement, government and other areas came together to address mental health gaps in the community. Because of their work, voters approved a ballot issue in November 2018 with 61 percent of the vote authorizing a 0.25 percent sales and use tax for behavioral health services.
The funds will be used to develop a behavioral or mental health facility in town, among other services.
She said the facility addresses gaps that “we have known about for a long time,” as Larimer County “really came together as a community and figured out what those gaps are.”
Collaboration and community feedback were big components in getting the ballot question passed, Wilder said, as they were able to quantify where the gaps were and directly address them.
For others looking to bring similar services to their area, she suggested that communities be persistent and let failure lead success. The ballot question failed in Larimer County in 2016 before it was ultimately approved two years later.
Efforts to establish a detox facility for Garfield County have been discussed in the past. Garfield County public information officer Renelle Lott said the Board of County Commissioners is interested in partnering with other entities in the community, such as law enforcement, municipalities and health services, to develop a plan for addressing mental health and detox center needs.
Legleiter said it was encouraging to see over 150 people in attendance at the Friday symposium, as it shows it’s something more people see as an issue and want to learn more about.
“Our big picture vision for behavioral health is that every community in Colorado meet their behavioral health needs,” he added.
Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky prioritized addressing opioid and methamphetamine addiction locally after he was re-elected in November and reiterated that need again Friday.
He thinks it will take more than just county support to see a detox facility move forward in Garfield County, with a need for law enforcement officials, city officials, mental and behavioral health officials and everybody else involved to come to the table.
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Commissioners have approved $500,000 in assistance for residents struggling with rent, food and other expenses due to COVID-19,