Valley View Youth Recovery Center closing once final client leaves, official confirms
Receding Medicaid reimbursements, staffing issues lead to closure
A Glenwood Springs addiction and mental health treatment center for teens is closing its doors after its final client leaves, an official confirmed Wednesday.
For the past 36 years, the Youth Recovery Center at Valley View Hospital has taken in teens suffering addiction and mental health issues from across the state. Clients are housed as they undergo comprehensive, therapeutic and medical care.
Valley View Hospital Communications Officer Stacey Gavrell said in an email Wednesday the reasons behind the center’s impending closure are two-fold: receding Medicaid reimbursements and adequate staffing.
Gavrell said the hospital invested heavily in recruiting full-time staff but has had to rely upon traveling medical professionals and contract workers to support the center. The extraordinary cost to staff the center with non-permanent workers “was not sustainable.”
Gavrell also said changes in Medicaid reimbursement have made it more difficult to receive “what payments we did before, however insufficient.”
“While we have been proud to underwrite this program for decades, it is not sustainable as we look ahead to ensuring Valley View’s independence as our community’s health care leader,” she said.
Oftentimes a teenager is referred to Youth Recovery Center services by a parole or probation officer, and about 90% of the center’s clients are insured by Medicaid. The process also sometimes gets started by a parent — including foster parents — or therapist who recognizes a teen’s need for a higher level of care.
“Of the center’s clients, nearly 95% were from outside our local community,” Gavrell said. “Most clients are from Colorado’s Front Range.”
The Youth Recovery Center houses up to six clients at a time. They’re provided a six-week treatment program. This includes schooling, recreational and physical activities as well as family, individual and group therapy sessions.
A full staff of therapists consists of a clinical director, two therapists and one trauma therapist, including nurses.
Gavrell said teens will now seek treatment centers closer to home once Valley View’s Youth Recovery Center closes.
Luke Lubchenco has been a mental health advocate for Youth Recovery Center since January 2021. He said the center at Valley View is one of the few resources in the entire state that accepts all three forms of insurance — self-pay, private and Medicaid.
“There are teenagers who are sitting in jail right now due to circumstances that were outside of their control,” Lubchenco said. “They got mixed up in things that they didn’t know the consequences of, and they’re going to sit in jail for a long time and become institutionalized in that system, with fewer and fewer doors out of it.”
Lubchenco said Valley View’s Youth Recovery Center helped these adolescents better understand themselves and feelings of helplessness and why they used substances to mask those feelings.
“If you do have Medicaid, your options are already limited, because any therapist in a private practice is likely not going to take Medicaid,” he said. “Unless they’re doing it out of the goodness of their heart, there’s not a lot of incentive.”
Private treatment centers found throughout the Roaring Fork Valley alone typically offer high-end services. One of these institutions charges as much as $22,500 per month for treatment, according to luxuryrehabs.com. The standard for a 12-step program takes at least 90 days.
Meanwhile, mental health issues continue to be a growing concern for Colorado’s youth. The number of children and young adults ages 10-18 who have committed suicide in Colorado increased from 72 in 2015 to 87 in 2020, according to the latest Colorado Department of Health and Environment data.
Lubchenco said the suicide rate is “screaming in our faces” and that people are understandably becoming more outraged that funding is inadequate to “provide services to the people who need it most.”
Lubchenco also wonders why Valley View has to cut an entire program instead of perhaps ceasing operations temporarily as it looks for funding alternatives.
“The state of mental health of teenagers and kids around the country is pretty awful at the moment, and they need help,” he said. “A huge resource, especially for disenfranchised or otherwise disempowered youth in our state, is going away.
“That should be cause for alarm for a lot of people.”
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