Eric Galatas, Public News Service (Via AP Storyshare)
A state-federal partnership is helping safety-net mental health centers in Colorado deepen the services they provide, which is improving access and outcomes for people struggling with mental illness.
Sara Reid, grants and program evaluation manager for Mental Health Partners, said because getting to appointments across town can be a significant barrier, especially for people in crisis, her team now has seven outreach workers embedded where people who need help already are.
“Places like food pantries and other types of community partners,” Reid explained. “So that the people who are there getting other types of services don’t have to then go somewhere else to try to get connected with behavioral health care.”
Colorado currently has seven Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. Clinics getting federal funds are required to serve anyone who asks for mental health or substance abuse care, regardless of their ability to pay, place of residence, or age, including developmentally appropriate care for children and youth.
Frank Cornelia, deputy executive director of the Colorado Behavioral Health Care Council, said new national standards set by the program are key for addressing a persistent opioid addiction crisis. Certified clinics are required to get people into care quickly, provide crisis services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and offer the full array of behavioral health services so people who need care don’t have to piece it together themselves.
“Not just mental health services, but a full complement of community-based substance-use disorder services,” Cornelia outlined. “We know that people deal with both conditions at the same time, and we need to treat both conditions at the same time. And we get better outcomes when we do that.”
Certified clinics also help patients navigate the intersections between behavioral and physical health care, social services and other programs. Reid noted stable housing is often a precursor to success in other areas of life, and her team has seen better results for most clients within six months of entering care.
“Nearly all of the clients we work with are seeing improvement in stable housing,” Reid reported. “We’re able to help people move off of the streets and find housing, and then that helps them stay engaged in other types of care and services, it helps them build success in their own lives.”