Report calls for expanding mental health services
A report released today recommends expanding existing local services and creating a new state-of-the-art model for behavioral health care to help fill mental health service gaps in Larimer County that leave thousands unable to receive care each year, resulting in unnecessary pain and cost to individuals, families, and the community.
The report notes that while many quality services exist locally, Larimer County lacks a continuum of mental health treatment and support services sufficient to meet the current needs of the many residents with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders. These services are critical tools for fighting the opioid epidemic and ensuring adequate help is available for other mental health needs.
“What Will It Take?: Solutions to Mental Health Service Gaps in Larimer County” was produced by the Mental Health and Substance Use Alliance of Larimer County, a partnership of local public and private organizations, with help from the national consulting firm NIATx. The document, which was released today by the Health District of Northern Larimer County, is an update to a 2016 report by the Alliance that came to similar conclusions.
The report’s authors find that one in five adults (about 54,000) in Larimer County have some type of mental illness, with a similar percentage of youth ages 13-18 having a mental health condition. Just over 12,300 of those adults have a serious mental illness. Additionally, nearly 26,000 adults have a substance use disorder (drug or alcohol dependence), with many suffering from both mental illness and a substance use disorder. Combined, there are an estimated 69,000 unique adults in Larimer County with some sort of mental health condition.
As with other chronic health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, these illnesses can affect people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds.
“Left untreated, behavioral health disorders can lead to greater suffering from symptoms, poor health and longevity, a reduced ability to function in their families, school and work, and the use of more intensive and higher-cost treatment,” the report notes. “People with behavioral health disorders are also at higher risk for unstable employment, poverty, chronic health conditions, early death, and suicide.”
Although effective treatment exists and can impart significant benefits, many in Larimer County fail to get appropriate care or must seek treatment outside the community because services don’t exist or cannot meet current demand. For example, of the nearly 26,000 adults with a substance use disorder, only about 2,300 receive care each year. Among those who don’t get treatment, at least 1,200 are seeking it, but can’t find available services.
To help meet this need, the Mental Health and Substance Use Alliance calls for boosting local treatment capacity to serve more than 5,000 people annually, including creating new services or expanding existing ones to produce a more complete continuum of care.
A linchpin of the report’s recommendations is the development of a state-of-the-art Behavioral Health Services Center that would house many of these services, including thorough patient assessment; crisis stabilization; residential treatment for substance disorders; medication-assisted treatment; withdrawal management (formerly known as detox); care coordination to ensure connection to, and coordination with, community-based treatment; and limited transportation support to help reduce the burden on local law enforcement and emergency medical service, and to assist with access to services in rural areas of Larimer County.
In addition to the programs at the new center, the report calls for funding additional services in the community, including youth/family services to help children and families get help before a crisis; suicide prevention; support services in permanent supportive housing; and care coordination for people with the most complex needs. Financial assistance for those unable to pay the full cost of care is also recommended.
The report also encourages the community to increase outpatient treatment capacity and develop long-term, low-intensity residential housing (halfway houses).
The estimated net cost to provide more than 10,000 new or expanded services annually for more than 5,000 Larimer County residents in both the community and at the new 64-bed facility is $15.1 million.
(Total annual cost for services is $21.6 million, $6.5 million of which would be covered by payments from insurance and state and federal government, leaving a shortfall of $15.1 million each year.)
The one-time cost for construction of the 60,000-square-foot Behavioral Health Services Center is $30.7 million.
The authors of the report note that improved behavioral health services represent an investment in the physical, mental, and economic wellbeing of the community. For example, every dollar invested in addictions treatment yields a $4-$12 return for communities by reducing unnecessary and costly use of hospital emergency rooms, inpatient hospitalization, ambulances transport, law enforcement, courts, and jails.
In addition, the availability of adequate treatment and support services would save lives and help families; increase self-sufficiency; reduce poverty and homelessness; help prevent overdose deaths; improve health and reduce disability; improve quality of life; and improved productivity.
The full report, plus the executive summary and a four-page graphic summary, can be downloaded at www.healthdistrict.org/mh-gap-solutions.