Since its inception in July of 2019, Vail Health's Eagle Valley Behavioral Health (EVBH) has led community collaboration to ensure access to superior behavioral health services in Eagle County.
EVBH is responsible for assessing community needs, identifying service gaps, convening community leaders, allocating funding, and enhancing and developing the services necessary to prevent the onset of behavioral health conditions and to provide services for those most in need of care.
EVBH has strengthened and expanded the existing system of care in the community by aligning partners and filling gaps rather than replacing existing community capacity. EVBH serves to coordinate, develop, enhance, fund, and oversee all behavioral health services in our community spanning the following areas of service: Education/Consultation, Prevention/Early Identification, Outpatient Services, Intensive Outpatient Services, Crisis and Emergency Services, and Inpatient Services through collaborative partnerships.
Six key initiatives for implementation have been identified:
- CROSS-FUNCTIONAL BEHAVIORAL HEALTH FACILITY
Vail Health has purchased land in Edwards and is working with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health and Eagle County to design a comprehensive behavioral health facility mid-valley. The County is planning to add a bus stop at the campus, linking it into the County's ECO transit system. Current plans include a crisis stabilization unit with six adult and six adolescent crisis stabilization beds, a social detox unit, and a psych urgent care with 24/7 walk-in service. These plans are conceptual and need further analysis, discussion and approvals before being finalized.
- PROVIDER ACCESS AND CAPACITY
Currently, Eagle County has only one-half of the recommended licensed Behavioral Health providers as compared to the Colorado state average on a per capita basis. Colorado ranks 43rd in the country (50th being the worst) for behavioral health providers per capita. We aim to attract and retain over 100 additional Behavioral Health providers in our first five years, bringing the number of providers in our community to well above the national average.
We hope that many of these new providers can come directly from within our community. We work hard to partner with local students and offer incentives for recruiting licensed clinicians to our community. While we work to fill the gap of local providers, we will supplement the care via an expansion of telemedicine services across the continuum of care
In order to increase access and capacity, we are also exploring innovative ways of lowering barriers to accessing behavioral health care. Examples include the establishment of a financial assistance program, known as Olivia’s Fund, for any individual who lives or works in Eagle County to seek financial assistance for treatment and Mountain Strong, a behavioral health employee assistance program to expand services through local mountain-based employers.
We are also working with Mountain Family Health Centers and Colorado Mountain Medical to fully integrate behavioral health care into all primary care settings across the community and to ensure 100% behavioral health screening at all primary care visits.
- SYSTEM COORDINATION AND TRANSFORMATION
With over 30 organizations within Eagle County working on Behavioral Health, it is critical that our efforts are well coordinated. Eagle Valley Behavioral Health was established to serve as the backbone organization working with all community partners to ensure continuous communication, systems and plans are in place to keep us all aligned in addressing the same objectives. Collectively, we will transform the behavioral health system throughout Eagle County by creating a multiplier effect through partnerships, fundraising, and community-based programs and providers with effective delivery systems.
EVBH is also responsible for collecting and reporting on data to measure whether the behavioral health strategies being deployed in our community are having the intended impact. EVBH developed an evaluation plan to gather, measure, analyze and report on this data over the next 10 years. EVBH is also planning to invest in publishing our results and case studies to share our experiences and help nurture a culture that values data-based decision-making. We intend to become a national leader as we transform the behavioral health landscape of Eagle County.
The behavioral health landscape is rapidly changing both nationally and within the state of Colorado. Trends include mental health parity and health insurance reform, Medicaid benefit expansion and statewide attention to behavioral health system administration and payment structures. As opportunities present themselves, EVBH will remain nimble and quick to execute by monitoring national and state trends and investing in local “proof of concept” projects to continue to improve the behavioral health system in our mountain community.
- PREVENTION AND EDUCATION
In order to be successful with the other initiatives, we know we must move upstream and reduce the number of individuals who need care. To do this, we are going to significantly invest in prevention and education by both supporting proven programming and filling gaps through new initiatives. Prevention skills development will help to increase protective factors while decreasing common risk factors in our community. The protective factors we are working to bolster include civic engagement and improving social connections. Social determinants of health will be addressed through increased investment in early childhood services.
In October 2019, EVBH launched a comprehensive anti-stigma campaign and eaglevalleybh.org (now vailhealthbh.org) the single online source of information for all behavioral health resources in the community, including upcoming training and education, a behavioral health provider directory, and all behavioral health job listings in the county at the time.
Future efforts will also be targeted towards changing our social norms regarding excessive alcohol use and partnering with other resort communities across the country as we aim to change social norms about alcohol and substance abuse in mountain resort communities.
- CRISIS RESPONSE AND TRANSITION SERVICES
Over the past few years, the community has established a mobile crisis response system that is tied to both our paramedics and our local law enforcement agencies. This system, lead by Your Hope Center, responds to all 911 behavioral health calls with crisis clinicians to respond at the point of need. The objective is to provide the care and stabilize the individual in the field or in the privacy of their home versus transporting the individual to the hospital or county jail. To date, we have seen a 74% reduction of transports to the hospital emergency department and county jail.
After individuals have been stabilized, there is a critical need to transition those individuals back into an outpatient setting. Additional providers will be needed who can assist in coordinating this transition and ensure that no one falls through the cracks.
- SCHOOL-BASED SERVICES
We will be working to increase funding to support the placement of additional school-based clinicians in our public and private schools so every school in the valley has at least one clinician. We are starting the 2019-20 school year with nine clinicians in the Eagle County School District and aim to secure additional funding for eight additional clinicians, which would place a clinician in every elementary, middle, and high school in Eagle County.
We are also working with the Eagle County School District to develop a comprehensive wellness curriculum that would highlight what social, emotional, and prevention and education framework would be covered at each grade level