Grand County feels pinch from Colorado West Mental Health downsizing |

Grand County feels pinch from Colorado West Mental Health downsizing

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

Colorado West Regional Mental Health, the nonprofit corporation that provides counseling and other programs to 10 northwestern counties in the state including Grand, has recently cut or restructured 10 percent of its positions.

As many as 31 positions were affected, 18 of which underwent decreased hours, were already vacant or employees were moved to another role.

Although most of the positions cut were in Garfield and Mesa counties, the position held by Susan Whitefeather of Hot Sulphur Springs was one of them.

The reduction in staff should not have an impact on client care in the smaller counties, according to Colorado West’s County Manager Mike McCormick.

“People in the office are increasing the clinical load,” he said, including himself, adding that patients shouldn’t see a difference.

The changes, however, could affect Kremmling clients, as Kremmling’s one-half-day-a-week office hours are being examined.

“We’re evaluating the need, but there has not been a decision made to close down that facility,” said Colorado West CEO Sharon Ragio.

Reasons for the restructuring are due to budgetary downsizing, she said.

“As part of the budget process, we looked at how we can become more efficient, so we restructured some positions and we eliminated some positions,” Ragio said.

She said budget concerns are not linked to state cuts or construction of the new West Slope Mental Health Stabilization Center in Grand Junction.

The organization’s fiscal year begins July 1. The agency’s funding sources are widely varied, according to its Web site

Colorado West is the Medicaid mental health services provider for its service area in addition to having contracts with the state, cities, counties, Social Services departments, nursing homes, hospitals and businesses throughout the region. It also relies on the collection of client fees and private insurance.

“We’re real believers in being a good steward of funds Colorado West sees,” Ragio said.

Grand County’s Social Services refers people to Colorado West and pays fees for services, according to Social Services Director Glen Chambers.

As far as the downsizing, “We’re waiting to see how that’s going to affect us,” he said.

Although there are some private care providers in the county, Grand County has a growing need for more mental health counseling and care, as in most other health fields.

“We could always use more,” Chambers said. “Substance abuse is a big thing. There is absolutely nobody who is a state certified addictions counselor for adolescents.

That has been a major concern for us.”

And in his view, Grand County is experiencing a shortage of adult treatment too.

“And Colorado West is the only one I’m aware of that takes Medicaid for therapy,” he said.

“Services are not decreasing in Grand County,” Ragio reiterated. “And if there is a need for services (to be) increased in Grand County, I’d welcome that conservation.”

Reached at home last week, Whitefeather, a former Hot Sulphur Springs town board member, said she is now looking for another position in her field.

“There’s not anything in the county,” she said, “so I’m looking outside the county.”

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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