The extensive investigative reporting by the Colorado News Collaborative in Tuesday’s edition of The Daily Sentinel regarding Mind Springs Health was quite revealing. And sobering. It paints a picture of a vital organization failing at its mission in the communities it is supposed to serve, and thwarting inquiries into where things are going wrong.
With mental health crises reaching devastating levels, some local leaders are going around the organization to deliver critical services in a “don’t call Mind Springs” environment.
The story by Susan Greene is part of a statewide reporting project by the Colorado News Collaborative called On Edge. In it, officials from several western Colorado counties say Mind Springs is failing to deliver core services, is opaque in how it handles its finances and has set back the mental health of some of its patients.
Mind Springs Health, led by CEO and president Sharon Raggio and headquartered in Grand Junction, is the private, tax-exempt organization responsible for providing behavioral health safety-net services in 10 Western Slope counties: Summit, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco and Routt. According to Greene’s reporting, it is one of 17 regional “community mental health centers” statewide that long have been responsible for inpatient hospitalization, intensive outpatient treatment, outpatient psychiatric care, counseling and other forms of treatment for Coloradans on Medicaid or who are indigent, underinsured or in crisis.
Several counties in Mind Springs’ service area are going through a “divorce” with Mind Springs and paying, through local taxes, to provide those services themselves. Here in Mesa County, County Commissioner Janet Rowland said they are researching ways to possibly end some of Mind Springs’ contracts.
“We’re trying to determine which is the best path forward. We definitely are looking at creating some programs — maybe detox, maybe crisis care — that would meet the need that remains unmet,” Rowland said. The needs here remain unmet, and Mind Springs’ Raggio claims it can’t determine how much it spends on services by county.
Mind Springs receives federal and state funding, so it’s completely unacceptable that several Western Slope counties have to essentially double-pay for vital mental health services through local taxes to make up for Mind Springs’ deficiencies.
Eagle, Summit and Pitkin can afford it. Mesa, maybe not. Point is, we should not be expected to duplicate services Mind Springs is paid to provide.
Leaders across the Western Slope have said getting information out of Mind Springs on how it handles its finances has been impossible. If that’s the case, the state and federal government need to launch investigations into this organization. Our money went to fund it. We deserve to know where things have gone wrong.
Raggio says she is retiring next spring. For a CEO who makes $312,331 and can’t answer basic questions from county leaders on how much taxpayer money they receive and how and where it is spent, that’s too late. She should resign now.
These frustrations have been felt by these communities for years. Perhaps shining a light on the pain — clearly spelled out in black and white news reporting — will deliver overdue change.