Eagle County Paramedic Services’ new Behavioral Health Navigators rise to the challenge in current health climate

sally welsh

EDWARDS, Colo.—May 27, 2020—In March, Eagle County Paramedic Services (ECPS) welcomed Gladys Villa and Coco Andrade to the team as Community Behavioral Health Navigators. The new positions, created in part from a grant from Eagle Valley Behavioral Health (EVBH) and the Katz Amsterdam Foundation, is an outreach of Vail Health and focuses on assisting high-risk, high-acuity mental health consumers in Eagle County. As bilingual, multicultural women, Andrade and Villa operate with a client‐centered approach, advocating, empowering and educating clients. 

 A week later, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the job description for these two women.

Andrade and Villa pivoted, applying their skills and community knowledge to assist with the MIRA (Mobile Intercultural Resource Alliance) bus, the 40-foot RV that provides services for Eagle County. The two conducted swab testing for COVID-19 with Vail Health’s Gypsum COVID-19 Testing Facility and MIRA bus and assisted with Community Paramedics during home visits. 

As the community adjusts to evolving public health orders, and the ripple effects of COVID-19 result in greater behavioral health needs across our community, the Community Behavioral Health Navigators have shifted back to training for their original roles: providing mental health support to the community. 

“With the uncertainty that COVID-19 has created, mental and behavioral health resources in our community are important now more than ever,” said Chris Lindley, Executive Director of EVBH. “Gladys and Coco are tremendous assets and having them provide support to our community members, including the Spanish-speaking community, is vital. The goal of EVBH is to provide our community with behavioral health resources and find solutions to gaps in the system, and the role of the Community Behavioral Health Navigators fills one glaring gap locally.”

The goal of the Navigators is to reduce barriers to care and work directly with clients to improve mental health outcomes through supportive case management, early intervention and client education and empowerment, explained Kevin Creek, Community Paramedic supervisor for ECPS. 

“The Behavioral Health Navigators are not clinicians – they’re not trained to respond to crises or provide therapy – we have resources like the Hope Center and Mind Springs that do a great job with those services,” Creek said. “The Navigators are here to do just that: navigate. They can help you find a therapist, connect you to community resources or support groups and facilitate communication between mental health providers, among other things.”

For example: A friend lost his job due to COVID-19 and is feeling a lot of stress. Andrade or Villa could help that person find someone to talk to (connect with a therapist) and book an appointment or provide other resources.  

“The Navigators are like the hub of a wheel, directing clients along the various spokes and helping our community navigate the various options,” Creek added. 

As Eagle County transitions from high-alert due to COVID-19 and starts moving into the stages towards the “new normal,” resources like the Navigators will be more important than ever. 

To learn more or to book an appointment, please visit eaglecountyparamedics.com/behavioral-health-navigators

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About Eagle Valley Behavioral Health (EVBH)
Created in April 2019 thanks to a $60-million commitment by Vail Health, EVBH was established to lead the community collaboration, ensuring access to superior behavioral health services for everyone in the Eagle River Valley. EVBH has partnered with more than 25 local organizations to collaborate on behavioral health initiatives and provide the critical change needed to ensure a long-term vision for a robust, sustainable behavioral health system. For a list of community partners, as well as local behavioral health providers, visit eaglevalleybh.org.

About Eagle County Paramedic Services
Eagle County Paramedic Services (ECPS) operates ambulances using five stations from Gypsum to Vail, with up to 13 ambulances providing 24-7, 365-day coverage. Last year, the Paramedic Services answered 5,900 calls from Vail Pass to Hanging Lake. ECPS transports people having medical emergencies, conducts community health services to underserved people in Eagle County and also conducts education and training programs. For more information about the district, visit eaglecountyparamedics.com or call 970-926-5270.

 Photo Cutline: Coco Andrade and Gladys Villa, Behavioral Health Navigators, help conduct COVID-19 testing with MIRA Bus in March 2020.