Vail, CO (April 4, 2019) – Today, Vail Health announced its commitment to $60 million in funding over the next ten years to transform behavioral health services in the Eagle River Valley. In partnership with Eagle County and other community groups, a new nonprofit collaborative will be created to build needed facilities, improve access to providers and lower barriers to accessing behavioral health care across the valley.
“You can’t separate behavioral health from physical health,” said Governor Jared Polis, acknowledging Eagle County as a leader in confronting the issue. “I’m proud to announce today that a collaborative group, including public and private partners, is taking a huge step forward to transform the behavioral health landscape. One of the emerging leaders is Vail Health, which just announced a $60 million commitment to address behavioral health.”
“It is extraordinary to see our community come together to respond to this crisis in a collaborative and bold way,” said Mike Shannon, Chairman of Vail Health’s Board of Directors. “Our Board unanimously approved the support of this initiative because of the compelling evidence of a lack of sufficient local resources for our community.”
Currently, mountain towns across the west are being labeled as part of the “suicide belt” in the United States. Vail Health emergency room visits for anxiety and depression rose 360% (from 63 to 290) between 2013 and 2018. Eagle County lost 17 people to suicide in 2018, up 183% from 2016. While the $1.3 million contributed by Eagle County to support behavioral health initiatives, including funds raised from marijuana sales and excise tax, is a start, more needs to be done.
“Providing access to behavioral health services for the entire community is one of the county’s most important priorities,” said Jeanne McQueeney, Chair of the Eagle County Board of County Commissioners. “This collaboration with Vail Health, along with partners across the county, will provide the critical change we need to ensure our long-term vision for a robust, sustainable behavioral health system is realized.”
Over the last year, community groups including Eagle County Paramedic Services, Eagle County Schools, Eagle River Youth Coalition, Hope Center, Mind Springs, Mountain Family Health, SpeakUp ReachOut, University of Colorado’s Depression Center and local police departments joined Vail Health and Eagle County to identify the community’s needs and gaps in care. The new nonprofit, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, will develop 24/7 access to care and crisis management for adults and adolescents, in addition to providing opportunities for telehealth and psychiatric services in multiple languages. The nonprofit plans to increase prevention outreach and ensure people can access help when they need it.
“We are dedicated to continue working with the school district, emergency medical services, law enforcement and the community at large to make sure people of all ages and backgrounds have access
to the services they need for their health and well-being,” said Will Cook, President and CEO of Vail Health. “Ensuring access to behavioral health and crisis care services is the most important thing we can do to serve this community right now.”
Eagle Valley Behavioral Health will also work with community leaders to communicate and educate on behavioral health challenges. On average, 46% of Americans report not knowing where to go for behavioral health services, and over one million Coloradans struggle with a mental health condition.
“Behavioral health care is vital to our community. When I needed it most, I went without proper care for a year because the services in Vail were unequipped to help me,” said Amanda Precourt, a longtime community member. “My story isn’t unique. So many people are hurting like I was and need help, but don’t know where to turn. Bringing organizations and initiatives from across the county together to support each other and each of us is an important and necessary first step to saving lives.”
• More than one million Coloradans struggle with a behavioral health condition.
• Eagle County averages nearly a suicide attempt per day (324 in 2018).
• Eagle County lost 17 people to suicide in 2018, up 183% from 2016.
• Nearly one in four local 7th and 8th graders seriously considered suicide in 2017.
• 16% of local 7th and 8th graders have made a suicide plan.
• Behavioral health includes the prevention and intervention of mental illness such as depression or anxiety, as well as substance abuse and other addictions.
- Why is the Eagle River Valley taking on this initiative?
The Eagle River Valley is facing a behavioral health crisis. Eagle County averages nearly a suicide attempt per day and last year our community lost 17 people to suicide, a 183% increase since 2016. Making it easier to access behavioral health and crisis care services has never been more important for our community.
- What is the difference between behavioral health and mental health?
Behavioral health encompasses mental health as well as substance use disorders. Behavioral health focuses not only on treating depression, anxiety or suicide ideation, it also aims to prevent or disrupt substance abuse or other addiction.
- How is Vail Health working with the community to make sure this initiative meets the needs of the Eagle River Valley?
Vail Health and Eagle County officials are working with organizations and service providers to agree on standards of practice and to make sure our efforts are meeting the needs of the community. To begin this process, community leaders spent the last year meeting with key stakeholders and groups including Eagle County Paramedic Services, Eagle County Schools, Eagle River Youth Coalition, Hope Center, Mind Springs, Mountain Family Health, SpeakUp ReachOut, University of Colorado’s Depression Center and local police departments. This coalition agreed that Vail Health should create a new nonprofit organization to lead this new initiative.
- How will the $60 million be allocated to different services (i.e. how much is going to cover building costs, hiring more counselors, etc.?)
Details of the distribution of dollars are still being determined. Significant resources are being reserved for the development of an integrated, cross-functional facility to increase capacity, ensure 24/7 access, and create bed space in our community.
We are working with the community to develop additional, specific initiatives including:
- Launching an effort to make it easier for patients to see health care professionals and receive care
- Making sure health care is available in multiple languages to help ensure that all members of our community are able to access care
- Working to make communication across organizations easier so that patients receive coordinated care
- Providing more opportunities for telehealth
- More education, awareness and prevention
- What is the immediate impact of this initiative? Will the community see the difference in how services are provided and accessed immediately?
Important work is already being done through the county and partners, including more school-based therapists, additional behavioral health providers and bilingual resources. It’s going to take some time to activate this new nonprofit and put the new dollars to work, but we’ll see direct impacts within the year.
- How will this initiative change the services available and how they are accessed?
Our goal is to expand and build on the effective practices already working in the community and create stronger infrastructure and care capacity where it doesn’t yet exist.
- Where will the cross-functional facility be? When will it open? How soon will these services be available?
The location and timeline of the cross-functional facility are yet to be determined. When built, it will include a crisis stabilization unit for adults and adolescents, 24-hour/7-days-a-week walk-in services, social detox and respite care.
- Is Eagle County in the “suicide belt” and what does this mean?
In 2018, Eagle County had its highest rate of suicide ever, following a trend we’ve seen across our state. Eight out of ten states with the highest suicide rates in the U.S. are located in the rural mountain west, with Colorado among them. In these regions, barriers to behavioral health care, such as shortages of mental health care providers and long driving distances to medical centers, have to be addressed.
Rural communities throughout the country are facing an uptick in deaths by suicide. In a 2018 survey, more than half of rural Americans know someone who has struggled with suicidal thoughts or tried to commit suicide. In Eagle County and other communities like ours, this call to action is clear and urgent. We need to work together as a community to offer people care and to confront this crisis head on.
About Vail Health
Vail Health is a nonprofit community health care system with 12 locations across Eagle and Summit counties. Vail Health offers a 56-bed hospital, 24/7 emergency care, helipad, urgent care clinics, cancer care, breast centers, cardiovascular services, surgery, childbirth, physical therapy, internal medicine, endocrinology and more. Locally operated and governed by a volunteer board of directors, Vail Health invested $20 million back into the community last year. For more information, visit www.vailhealth.org.
CONTACT: Emily Tamberino | firstname.lastname@example.org | (970) 569-7754