Mental health program gets financial boost

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 9:15 PM MDT
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Communities everywhere are dealing with mental health struggles and not having easy access to resources continues to be an issues, which is something Mesa County community leaders are looking to change.

The Mesa County Health Collaborative is launching a new program this fall that’s geared toward making it easier for people in the community to access behavioral health resources by bringing it to them wherever they may be, such as in their homes, on the streets, or even in jail.

The new program, called the Intensive Case Management Program, was developed by the Mesa County Commissioners, as well as law enforcement and other community leaders. According to Sheriff Todd Rowell, usually around 50 percent of inmates in Mesa County are dealing with some form of mental illness.

“It’s something we’ve recognized and we’ve done well within our detention facilities with jail-based behavioral services and substance abuse counseling to get people stabilized within our jail,” said Rowell. “Once they get out of our jail, we’ve had problems getting people they need into the care that they need within a prompt amount of time. There’s just too much distance between when they could get in to a service within our community and when they get out of jail.”

According to SCL Health, it’s not just people in the jail that are having trouble accessing behavioral health resources. Emergency rooms across the county see hundreds of patients each month with mental health needs.

The program is geared toward helping people with severe and persistent mental health issues, where their health struggles continually impact their ability to meet their basic needs.

“We know that it affects the cost of care in our health care agencies,” said Bryan Johnson, president of Intermountain Western Colorado Market. “St. Mary’s is affected heavily by mental health disorders in our community. They tend to show up in our E.R. where we have some resources, but really, they’re still not adequate enough.”

The Intensive Case Management Program was designed in February 2022. It involved funding from the office of Behavioral Health and the Mesa County Sheriff’s Seizure fund. Now, after a new donation, the program now has enough funding to open in September 2022.

Intermountain Healthcare, which recently merged with SCL Health, donated $300,000 to the program.

“Even though we’re working on this as SCL, Intermountain identified this as a key issue around behavioral health,” said Johnson. “How do we enter into a market, demonstrate our commitment. How better to do that than through a behavioral health commitment. Intermountain is very focused on that, making sure we’re continuing the work and making sure they’re supportive of this all the way through the process.”

Sheriff Rowell said he is grateful for the support from Intermountain Healthcare.”

“It shows a level of commitment of solving some of these issues that affect our community,” said Rowell. “It’s not just the hospitals and the jails. If people aren’t properly treated, it affects our community. We see people in our community that are not receiving the care that they need and we’re taking a step to try and solve that.”

Rowell acknowledges that the Intensive Case Management Program isn’t a perfect solution, but he said it puts the community on the right path.

“This won’t the thing that 100 percent solves it, but it’ll set us on a path so we can work with other community groups so we can take a big step towards resolving some of the mental health issues in our community,” said Rowell. “It’s a huge step in the right direction.”

When the program kicks off in September, it’s expected to treat 70 people in it’s first year. Organizers hope it will help keep people out of emergency rooms and jails who really don’t need to be there in the first place.

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