Rural Health Network receives grant

Hank Shell

The Denver Foundation has announced a $525,000 grant to implement a mental health navigator program in Grand County, according to the Grand County Rural Health Network.

GCRHN Executive Director Jen Fanning said her organization applied for the grant last year along with partners Middle Park Medical Center, Mind Springs Health and Grand County.

“We’re just so excited,” Fanning said. “I can’t believe that we got this already, and we got it in full.”

The three-year grant provides for the establishment of a mental health navigator program – a network of mental and behavioral health professionals and resources meant to help patients navigate healthcare providers in the community and receive the care they need.

Mental health was identified as a priority in Grand County’s 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment.

Grand County currently has a decent amount of quality healthcare providers, Fanning said.

“We have some great providers,” Fanning said. “But people don’t necessarily know what they are, what services are offered, and the stigma itself of going to a mental health provider is a big issue.”

Over the last few years, officials with GCRHN and others have studied patient navigator programs in Routt and Moffat counties as well as more urban.

In the planned program, both GCRHN and MPMC will host a mental health navigator, a clinical behavioral health professional that’s either licensed or able to become licensed to provide behavioral health counseling.

Those navigators will work with private medical offices to assist with patient navigation and, hopefully, will be able to work in private offices alongside other providers to intervene in possible mental health cases, Fanning said.

One will work with providers at MPMC facilities around while the other works with private medical offices to assist with patient navigation, Fanning said. At some point, Fanning said she hopes a navigator can work in private offices alongside other providers to intervene in possible mental health cases.

“Our biggest concern is patient choice for the mental health navigators,” Fanning said. “Even though the community mental health navigator will be employed by Mind Springs, they will not necessarily be funneling everybody to Mind Springs.”

Early intervention will save healthcare costs down the road, said Tom Gangel, Mind Springs Health’s regional director.

“The most expensive way to get your healthcare is through emergency rooms and those types of things,” Gangel said. “Any care provided before you get to those points is effective as far as cost reduction, and it’s just better healthcare.”

Mind Springs brings to the table a wealth of knowledge regarding behavioral health, Gangel said.

Additionally, the grant provides for a transport navigator that can provide access to transportation for mental health emergencies.

That component will take the burden off of local law enforcement, which often ends up providing transportation in those cases, Fanning said.

In a sense, it will also decriminalize what is fundamentally a medical issue, she said.

GCRHN is currently seeking an appropriate vehicle for its transport navigator program. For more information, call 970-725-3477.

Hank Shell can be reached at 970-557-6010.

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