San Miguel County commissioners receive year-end behavioral health update

By Suzanne Cheavens, Telluride Daily Planet

Voter-funded services reach entire county

TELLURIDE – Since 2018, when 66 percent of San Miguel County voters passed a mill levy of .75 to support behavioral health services, experts in mental health, education, legal services and the judiciary fields have worked to establish numerous programs for residents. Recently, the public heard a year-end review of those activities and learned about upcoming plans.

Corinne Cavender of Tri-County Health Network (TCHN) presented the summary created by the Behavioral Health Services panel (BHS). First, she outlined successes. "We now do fully bilingual meetings and meeting materials," she said. "We have support from the Colorado Language Cooperative, who does all of our interpretation for the meetings, as well as the word point for translation. So, that's built into budgeting for 2023, making sure that everything can be bilingual.”

The department also improved access to therapy for residents through the Behavioral Health Fund, a less restrictive funding model than one used previously. “I'm not sure if all of you know, but the [previous] Good Neighbor Fund application is pretty tedious and there's a lot of proof that you have to show for the funds that you're receiving. We really didn't want to have any barriers there. So, it made the application a lot easier and didn't have a lot of guardrails in for this first year,” she said.

Cavender reported that 144 individuals who live or work in the county have received $230,000 worth of therapy. She said that BHS had not known the amount of funding that would be needed in 2022 and therefore had inserted a $100,000 placeholder line item in the budget. For 2023 she said that BHS had voted to restrict the amount of funds.

She detailed several other related expenses as well. TCHN, as the administrator for BHS, was awarded $76, 324 for “processing ... applications, helping determine copay amounts, [and] communicating with providers, which I think is kind of one of the biggest, most important things that TCHN handles, making sure that the therapists are Colorado-licensed, and then just managing invoices and all of that kind of financial tracking,” Cavender said.

A Behavioral Health Care Coordinator, or systems navigator, is also employed by TCHN. “[This position] provides really just a big support system through the behavioral health system in San Miguel County, making sure that higher-needs clients are able to access all that's there,” Cavender said. “We do have resources and a lot of people just don't know how to access them. So, this person really helps connect our community members to resources and agencies that are available.” BHS awarded TCHN $210,000 over three years to fund the position.

A number of entities throughout the county received funding from BHS, including:

  • Uncompahgre Medical Center (UMC) – $182,682 for tele-health services, translation services and the recruitment and relocation of a mental health advisor
  • TCHN – $194,391 for a new stigma reduction education campaign
  • Lone Cone Library – $1,500 to create an LGBTQ+ Community Group for teens and young adults who meet there twice a month
  • Telluride School District – $299,733 for developing curricula, staffing, initiatives and other programs to bolster the district’s programs that support student mental and behavioral health.

Looking ahead, BHS wants to fund several new initiatives, such as programs at Telluride Mountain School, a Gather and Grieve support group, San Miguel County Social Services, UMC, the Telluride School District and the Telluride Medical Center. Those proposed figurers will appear on a future county commission agenda.

Commissioner Hilary Cooper expressed her desire for BHS to strengthen its substance abuse support work and received support for the idea from fellow commissioners Lance Waring and Kris Holstrom. “That's a priority for me to get the behavioral health and especially substance use disorder continuum of care as formal of a partnership as possible, with our criminal justice system, which is not just the jail, it's the courts as well,” Cooper said.

“That is certainly a priority for the board and whatever we can do to help that system out. And that's something that I've been looking towards, you know, in terms of the opioid settlement funds to see if we can get better regional coordination, pretrial services, diversion, adult diversion and pretty good juvenile diversion ... I think behavioral health services is an entity that certainly could step into that gap.”

Read the original article here.

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