Mind Springs Health was dealt a severe blow to its community crisis services this week with the announcement that the state of Colorado would transition away from using the mental health care company effective July 1.
The impending loss of Mind Springs for emergency situations has raised many questions within western Colorado’s behavioral health industry. In just 10 days, Rocky Mountain Health Plans will assume responsibilities for crisis services for the entire Western Slope, which will now encompass 22 counties. Rocky Mountain Health Plans, however, does not maintain infrastructure within the majority of the area.
Mind Springs Health, which maintains a satellite clinic in Granby, has held a contract with the state since 2014 to provide mobile and walk-in crisis services across its 10-county service area, which includes Grand and Summit counties.
Mind Springs Health and the Granby clinic will continue to operate and provide services, so there will be no change to outpatient services. However, emergency services will only be available to clients.
That contract was put up for rebid in 2017, at which time the state transformed responsibilities, regions and funding allocations, according to Mind Springs officials. The prior 10-county region of service, labeled Region 1, was increased to encompass 22 counties, effective July 1.
“This is a time of significant change for Mind Springs Health. We have been delivering crisis services to our community since our inception in 1972,” said Sharon Raggio, Mind Springs Health president and CEO. “As this news was shared with our board of directors, they asked me to convey their personal sadness as they have always viewed crisis services as one of the most important services offered.”
The Colorado Behavioral Health Council challenged the proposal in state court before Judge Ross Buchanan, arguing that the court did not fully flush out the evidence surrounding the severe reduction in funding to the northeast and western slope region, as well as the impact of the administrative expansion as it impacts the availability of funding for client care.
During the proceeding, Buchanan asked if the state was sure it wanted to continue to proceed with the contract rebidding given community concerns.
The court ultimately ruled against the council on May 1. In the ruling, it was stated that, where there is uncertainty in statute that is interpreted by a state department, the court does not have the authority to speak for the Legislature.
Rocky Mountain Health Plans did not immediately return a request for comment.
What it means for Grand County
A lack of crisis services in Grand County, as of July 1, has raised many questions within the community and between local mental health care partners.
“We think the mental health crisis services are very important and we need to make sure that they continue without a gap,” Grand County Sheriff Brett Schroetlin said. “With only 10 days out, we don’t have any definitive course of action.”
That concern was echoed by Jennifer Fanning, executive director of the Grand County Rural Health Network. Fanning, along with other community partners, will file an official complaint with the state regarding the rebidding and its short timeline.
“Should there be change … it needs to be a phased-in, well thought out, strategic change plan that is not 10 days notice,” Fanning said. “I’m talking six months to create those trusted relationships, to make sure that infrastructure in place.”
Fanning credited Mind Springs with doing an “incredible” job in the past years and responding to the community’s needs, despite an overworked, understaffed behavioral health system within the county.
Conversations are ongoing between Mind Springs and Rocky Mountain Health Plans as it pertains to a transition plan for community services. As of Friday, officials with Mind Springs indicated that details were still evolving and the company would have more clarity next week.