Grand County health network addresses mental health, other issues | SkyHiNews.com

Grand County health network addresses mental health, other issues

Hank Shell
hshell@skyhidailynews.com

Since Grand County completed its Community Health Assessment last year, there has been a lot of conversation about the county's capacity to treat those suffering from mental health issues.

The assessment identified mental health as its top priority, and the issue surfaced again during the Grand County sheriff candidate's forum in June, when both candidates expressed concern that county law enforcement didn't have the resources to deal with substance abuse and mental health issues.

Now, the Grand County Rural Health Network has unveiled a plan to address shortfalls in mental health services in the county.

Jen Fanning, executive director of the Grand County Rural Health Network, presented a strategic plan at the Sept. 2 board of county commissioners meeting that includes expanding mental health education, completing an inventory of mental health resources in the county and improving how health care providers make mental health referrals.

Using a strategic planning process, the network condensed the top five priorities from the 2013 assessment into mental health and maternal, infant and child health, with the other priorities included in both.

"The mental health section is really the meat of the issue, and we're trying to focus on what we can change," Fanning said.

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The network used independent consultants and work groups to draft its strategic plan. The Grand County Healthcare Professionals Society and community members then reviewed the strategies before the work groups drafted the final strategic plan.

Bolstering offerings

The rural health network is already working with Granby-based Mind Springs Health to implement its first strategy – promoting a general mental health awareness class to improve how providers, staff and the general public interact with at-risk populations or patients.

The class would help de-stigmatize mental health issues while improving communication between participants and mental health patients, Fanning said.

Mind Springs Health already offers such a class, and Fanning said one of her organization's priorities is helping Mind Springs Health secure grants to promote its class and offer community scholarships for the class.

"We really just want to make sure that there are high quality mental health services available," Fanning said.

The other focus area to come out the strategic planning process was maternal, infant and child health.

The first strategy in this focus area is parenting support and education focused on the first year of life. This strategy is comprised of fostering nurse family partnerships and initiating home visits for parents and guardians.

Mental health inventory

One major issue with mental health services in the county is a lack of information on what services are available, Fanning said.

The rural health network plans to complete a detailed gap analysis and data assessment to identify what services are available in the county, she said.

The assessment will include what insurance mental health providers in the county take and what each provider's strengths and focuses are, Fanning said.

The network hopes the assessment can be completed in one to three months.

This inventory will also work toward creating what Fanning called a "referral roadmap," which would help providers identify whom they should refer their patients to.

It could also bolster communication between providers.

"When a primary care provider refers to a specialist, there is a system where they contact the specialist," Fanning said. "In mental health care, they don't have a system for referrals."

Information central

The network hopes to address the lack of a centralized source for health information by developing a detailed information and education campaign and a website.

"We want to make sure that people are aware of what's here so they can use it when they need it," Fanning said.

The website could be utilized by both individuals and service providers.

The educational campaign could be developed within the next six to 24 months, according to the strategic plan.

Another possible strategy for making information on mental health and maternal, infant and child health available would be to develop a task force to help educate the community and community leaders on available health services.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.

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