State to fund mobile health crisis team

New inpatient care planned for Grand Junction

Improvements to crisis mental health care services across the region will receive funding soon now that a lawsuit against the state has ended.

The state will fund a new mobile crisis team that will serve Southwest Colorado, and new inpatient care facilities in Grand Junction that would be open to the Western Slope, said Sam Wise Romero, chief operating officer for Axis Health Systems.

The Western Slope will receive about $4.4 million in grants to fund the improvements, said Liz McDonough, of Colorado Department of Human Services. The funds will be divided among several behavioral health organizations including Axis Health Systems, which serves five counties including Montezuma.

In 2013, the state legislature set aside about $22 million in grant funds for improvements to the mental health system across the state after the July 2012 shooting in Aurora. Crisis Access LLC, an out-of-state entity, was presumptively awarded all the contracts to serve the whole in October 2013, according to its website. A judge later said the bidding process was bungled, The Denver Post reported. After mediation of the lawsuit, the funds will be now awarded to mental health providers that already serve the state. Crisis Access withdrew its pursuit of the state contracts June 6, according to the company’s website.

Axis Health System will receive about $900,000 to fund the crisis team that will respond to crisis situations such as shootings and wildfires to provide 24/7 emergency mental health care, said Bern Heath, CEO of the health system. Currently, it’s expected that the funds will be renewable each year, said Wise Romero.

The team will be staffed by EMTs and behavioral therapists and will serve Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, and San Juan counties. It may be based out of La Plata or Montezuma county, he said. The new team would take some of the pressure off the Cortez Integrated Health Care staff to be on-call, said director Fred Colson.

The unit would be sent to crisis situations to help prevent trauma from having a long term impact on the victims and law enforcement.

“We can really prevent more serious illnesses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder if we can quickly get to people after they have been exposed to trauma,” said Wise Romero.

For example, they would go to an officer-involved shooting, wildfire or a situation in which a seriously mentally disturbed person is walled up in their home, said Heath.

The team may also provide training to local law enforcement and transport patients to Durango or Grand Junction for care.

Taking patients to the detox facility in Durango or other treatment centers can take officers away from other duties, Heath said.

“Transportation is a real bear – it’s hard on small county departments,” he said.

The new inpatient treatment in Grand Junction will include a crisis stabilization unit that will be housed in a new building.

New crisis stabilization beds will be housed at St. Mary’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Grand Junction until the new facility is built. Crisis stabilization is a less costly alternative to hospitalization and would provide shorter-term care than Axis’ acute care facility center in Durango.

The respite care for children and adults would be provided by Hilltop in Grand Junction, which already provides for a variety of community behavioral health services. The respite care would provide a place for those with mental health diagnosis to take a break from their current environment to help prevent crisis or keep a crisis from worsening. For teenagers, this can provide a cooling-off period for the family to prevent out-of-home care.