Garfield chips in to mental hospital campaign

Garfield County commissioners this week committed $50,000 toward an effort to build an expanded Grand Junction psychiatric hospital to serve western Colorado.

The county’s contribution comes as Mind Springs Health, the entity that plans to build the hospital, begins seeking support from area counties as part of a fundraising effort.

Mind Springs already has raised more than $10 million of the nearly $18 million it is pursuing through a fundraising campaign to begin construction on a project to double the capacity of West Springs Health to 64 beds. It hopes to begin construction sometime this summer, and plans to borrow the remainder of the money needed for what ultimately will be a $34 million project.

In Garfield County, Mind Springs’ request to the county commissioners for funding received backing from Garfield Sheriff Lou Vallario, county Department of Human Services Director Mary Baydarian, Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, and Grand River Health, which operates the hospital in Rifle.

Vallario wrote in a letter of support, “I agree that the need for psychiatric bed expansion on the Western Slope, particularly in Garfield County, is urgent and desperate. I have a vested interest in the expansion as I see first-hand the strain that lack of available beds places on our local law enforcement, hospital, and emergency room staff. It directly impacts my officers who are working hard in partnership with Mind Springs to provide appropriate, timely treatment.”

Gary Brewer, chief executive officer of Valley View, wrote that lives would be saved in the Roaring Fork Valley and surrounding mountain communities by adding more beds. He said he witnesses “the strain that a lack of available beds places on our hospital and emergency room staff. The shortage of resources is financially and emotionally costly for Garfield County residents, agencies and businesses.”

In the fourth quarter of last year, Valley View averaged 0.72 patients per day waiting for a psychiatric bed to become available, it says. Mind Springs says West Springs Hospital in the 2016 fiscal year admitted 148 patients from Garfield County, up 41 percent from the previous year, and more than double the number in the 2013 fiscal year.

Roger Sheffield, Mind Springs’ vice president for development, told Garfield commissioners that the growth in demand at the hospital reflects increasing awareness of the need to get people the help they need.

While Garfield commissioners agreed to donate the entire amount asked by Mind Springs, they also sought assurances that other counties that also would be served by the expansion will be asked to pay their fair share. Sheffield said he is in the process of pursuing funds from Mesa, Routt, Summit, Pitkin, Montrose, Moffat, Delta and Montrose counties. Eagle County has contributed $10,000 and hopes to donate more, he said.

Said Garfield Commissioner John Martin, “We’ll be the leaders and we’ll set the pace and if people want to follow, then it’s up to them.”

He said he thinks Garfield will get back more than it is paying in terms of reduced demand on local law enforcement and emergency services.

“It is an investment, and we probably won’t see a direct return, but we will see an indirect return. Hopefully we’ll have healthier folks and (will be) helping those folks survive,” he said.

The project also has received donations including $2.5 million from St. Mary’s Hospital and $2 million from the Colorado Health Foundation.


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