‘Dire shortage’ of mental health care

There are no national benchmarks by which communities can determine whether they have enough mental-health treatment facilities, but lawmakers hope to establish them soon.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., said he will co-sponsor legislation in the 115th Congress that would establish standards and ultimately improve decisions about where to build facilities and how large they should be.

Previous versions of the legislation have been offered by Sens. Bill Cassidy, R-La., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa.

Those standards probably won’t be established in time to aid in the expansion of West Springs Mental Health Hospital in Grand Junction, which he toured on Monday.

Northwest Colorado, which makes up the coverage area for Mind Springs, the parent organization for West Springs Mental Health Hospital, clearly has a “dire shortage” of mental-health beds already, Gardner said.

Its region has six beds per 100,000 residents.

Statewide, the number is 24 per 100,000 residents, leaving northwest Colorado in a “dire shortage,” said Sharon Raggio, CEO of Mind Springs.

Even at that, Gardner said, the hospital receives referrals from Front Range clinics.

Fitting in residents from other regions is difficult enough because there are frequently as many as 10 people seeking admission to the hospital on any given morning and the number grows during the day, Raggio said.

Mind Springs expects to break ground in the summer on an expansion of West Springs, from 32 to 64 beds.

The expansion is to be funded by a $17 million fund drive, which includes a $2.5 million contribution from St. Mary’s Hospital.

The hospital now is losing money on providing beds for people with mental health issues rather than medical ones.


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