Mind Springs CEO reassures Garfield County commissioners about organization as local detox agreement discussed

With a draft agreement on the table to join forces with Mind Springs Health for new addiction-treatment services in Garfield County, commissioners on Monday sought re-assurances from the organization’s new CEO regarding Mind Springs’ mental-health services in the region.

Last week, the Behavioral Health Administration issued a cease-and-desist letter to Mind Springs, ordering it to stop using an older building that’s part of its West Springs Hospital in Grand Junction due to concerns that were raised about the safety of teenagers and children who were being treated there.

In addition, as reported by Colorado News Collaborative’s Susan Greene Sept. 28, the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing said it would withhold payment for any new Medicaid inpatients until investigators complete a review of safety concerns at the hospital.

New Mind Springs CEO John Sheehan was before the Garfield County commissioners on Monday for a formal introduction and to answer any questions they had about the organization and its services.

Mostly, those questions centered around what Mind Springs is doing to get back on track — especially as the county prepares to consider a formal agreement with the organization to help fund a new Withdrawal Management Services (detox) center in Glenwood Springs. Details of the agreement were discussed at a commissioners work session Tuesday, and the agreement is expected to be signed before year’s end.

“We are working real hard to get our compliance issues understood and corrected,” Sheehan reassured the board. “We’re moving forward with a strategic plan that’s going to take Mind Springs from where it has been — which is fairly embattled and struggling to meet the expectations of the communities we serve — to where I think we should be, which is setting the standard in behavioral health.”

He said the latest investigation was triggered by complaints from two former Mind Springs employees, “who were fired for very good cause.

“We’re just waiting for the additional steps we need to take for compliance, and to enact them quickly and get the place back to where it needs to be,” Sheehan said.

He said Mind Springs still hasn’t been fully notified of the specifics of the complaints but said they were made aware of some safety issues in the older Building D that needed to be addressed.

That particular building has 16 beds, in addition to the 48 beds in the newer portion of the psychiatric hospital, that were being used for treatment of underaged patients.

Some of the concerns, according to the CoLab report, had to do with inadequate staffing to keep teenage patients separate from patients, who could be as young as age 7, and avoiding possible safety breaches.

Sheehan said recruiting and retaining health-care workers has been a challenge for Mind Springs, same as other organizations. The multi-agency nature of regulatory compliance for behavioral health facilities in Colorado is also challenging, especially when they don’t always communicate with each other, he said.

“What I can tell you is that Mind Springs has state-of-the-art facilities and is providing excellent care on a daily basis to a lot of people,” Sheehan said. “A lot of the issues have been around recruitment of talent and being able to staff our programs.”

In response, he said Mind Springs gave a 5% across-the-board wage increase and doubled its employee retirement match.

Wages for frontline mental-health workers also went from $13 an hour to a range of $20-$27 per hour, and nurses are now paid $39.50 an hour — up from $29.50.

“That’s competitive with other hospitals in the region,” Sheehan said.

The organization is also working to tailor its services to each of the individual communities it serves, recognizing that rural needs may be different than those in the more-populated parts of Mind Springs 10-county service area, he said. 

“We do have a long list of things that need to be improve and to be deployed in the right way,” he said.

Commissioner Tom Jankovsky asked about other mental-health service organizations stepping in at the local level to provide services.

Sheehan said he welcomes that and doesn’t view it as competition. 

“Personally, I think that trend toward there being more providers is a good thing,” he said. “We have an absolute crisis occurring across this country of need related to behavioral health and substance-abuse treatment. … We do need more providers, more community conversation, more funding and we need more care being delivered at the highest quality point we can find.”

County commissioners on Tuesday met with representatives from Mind Springs and other local partners to further discuss plans for the new Withdrawal Management Center. 

The center is to be located at Mind Springs’ facility on South Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs. In addition to detoxification services, the facility would work to connect people with addiction recovery programs.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or

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