Report: Gaps in Larimer County mental, behavioral health services affect thousands

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Here’s a step-by-step guide for communicating with someone you fear is depressed or having suicidal thoughts.
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Larimer County voters might see another measure on the November ballot to fund a mental and behavioral health facility in Northern Colorado. 

In an 81-page report released this month, the Mental Health and Substance Use Alliance of Larimer County calls for the construction of a new behavioral health facility that would cost $30.7 million to build and an estimated $26.1 million annually to operate. About $6.5 million of the annual operating costs would come from insurance, state and federal funding.

Larimer County Behavioral Health Project Director Laurie Stolen said the county is working on a master plan to be ready in July that’s a culmination of the group’s report, forums with mental health providers, community listening sessions and various other efforts.

She anticipates that staff will take the plan to Larimer County commissioners on July 24 and ask that they refer the measure to the November ballot.

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“The county is convening a conversation of community members, providers and experts to make this truly a community co-created solution,” she said.

That’s something that was misunderstood when the ballot measure failed in 2016, she said. The county isn’t getting into new services, according to Stolen, but is working with providers and community members to ensure services are offered in a more efficient and effective way.

According to the report, every $1 invested in addition treatment yields a return of $4 to $12 in reducing emergency room and ambulance costs; hospital and health care costs; and costs for law enforcement, jails and court. 

“There are absolutely real cost offsets for providing treatment as opposed to putting people in jail or hospitals, and we have the data that backs that up,” said Anne Hudgens, Colorado State University Health Network executive director, in the report.

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But Hudgens said she’s even more concerned with the “human outcomes.”

“… expanding services is certainly going to have economic benefits, but more importantly, it’s going to save lives,” she said.

The report states that approximately 1 in 5 adults, or 53,800 people in Larimer County, have a mental illness. Approximately 26,000 have a substance use disorder, about 2,300 of whom currently receive care. Though many want to receive that care, the report states, the lack of detoxification services leads those needing treatment instead to end up in local jails and emergency departments.

According to the report, to meet the needs of Larimer County’s residents, service and treatment needs to be made available to more than 5,000 people per year.

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“Providing a full and improved continuum of care each year for these people is critical to their recovery,” the report states. “However, current local treatment and support services are insufficient to meet that demand.”

The report recommends 10,000 new or expanded services with a new 64-bed, 60,000 square-foot facility.

The report notes the facility would reduce the burden on local resources. Services would include “patient assessment; crisis stabilization; residential treatment for substance disorders; medication-assisted treatment; withdrawal management (formerly known as detox); care coordination to ensure connection to, and coordination with, community-based treatment; and limited transportation support.”

It also calls for additional funding to other services in the community that provide services as well as a call to increase outpatient treatment services and developing “long-term, low-intensity residential housing (halfway houses).”

To view the full report, visit https://noconow.co/larimermentalhealth.

Reporter Saja Hindi covers public safety, courts and accountability. Follow her on Twitter @BySajaHindi or email her at shindi@coloradoan.com.

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