Colorado did not rank as the worst in the nation for the prevalence of mental illness and access to treatment for adults, a position it held in the 2022 Mental Health in America report.
Recently released 2023 report Mental Health America ranks Colorado 45th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia for prevalence and access to adults.
The improvement is insignificant, said President and CEO Vincent Achiti. Mental Health ColoradoAssociate of Mental Health America.
“The numbers go up and down for both adults and children – that’s the nature of this data,” he said. Colorado ranks in the bottom third of the nation for safety.
Noting that the 2023 report uses 2019 and 2020 statistics from the first nine months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the data provides a snapshot in time and has a real-time lag, Atchie said.
The pandemic’s impact on mental health is now in full view, and as we head into the new year, the mental health of Coloradans is a concern.
There’s still a general, cumulative increase in anxiety and depression rates across the board,” says owner Dr. Eric French, Ph.D. Mental Spa Denver At Greenwood Village, an outpatient psychiatric and psychological clinic.
He said people are still cleaning up after what happened between 2020 and 2022. “A lot of people are stuck in survival mode and they’re realizing how much it’s affecting them. It’s becoming a nightmare,” he said.
And people don’t seem sure how to move forward, French said, which adds to the uncertainty and creates a sense of hopelessness.
Anyone who has recently sought the services of a psychiatrist, psychologist, therapist or counselor knows there is a persistent shortage of providers, said Lori Jarvis, the group’s executive director. Colorado Springs Office National Institute of Mental Illness or NAMI.
“The wait time is long, and a lot of them don’t accept new patients,” Jarvis said.
Most people are waiting 30 to 60 days for an appointment, Atchi said.
Even then, “you may get your foot in the door, but what are the odds of meeting a provider who understands your circumstances and provides the support you need?” he asked.
That’s especially the case for LGBTQ+ people, black, Hispanic and other people of color, rural residents and asylum seekers, Attchi said.
Coloradans are more isolated than residents of densely populated states, and access to medical care in rural areas may be unavailable, forcing people to travel to larger cities for care.
Despite the state’s strong economy, indicators such as employment, and the state’s high rate of adult education, “we’re not closing the gaps in mental health access,” he said.
“Creating a pipeline of care is imperative,” Atchi said. “The state of mental health in Colorado is dire.”
‘Thanks for the trend’
Young people have performed better in recent years in terms of mental health, moving from 13th best in 2022 to 11th in 2023.
The report looked at the number of people with any mental illness in the past year, as well as those with serious suicidal thoughts and substance use problems. Also included in the rankings were people who had not received treatment for mental health problems, or had uninsured or other cost-effective factors and unmet needs.
Colorado’s overall ranking, which takes into account the conditions of children and adults, has improved over the past few years, rising from 47th nationally in the 2021 report to 37th in 2023 to 30th in 2023.
“While Colorado’s numbers are still not great, we’re grateful for the trend,” Jarvis said.
New methods are being implemented to address provider shortages and staffing shortages, such as using peer specialists and nurse practitioners to help expand services to meet medical demand, he said.
Her organization’s peer support programs, which are run by people who have mental health issues or have a family member in need, are “recognized as a great way to support mental health needs when someone is struggling,” Jarvis said.
Other aid is on the horizon, but some will take years to implement.
The state is seeking planning support from last year’s Safer Communities bipartisan gun control act to develop more certified community behavioral health centers, Jarvis noted.
and six months of Colorado Behavioral health management The agency’s first monthly virtual town hall was held on January 25, 2008.
With the overarching goal of meeting the behavioral health needs of all Coloradans, the new management system at the cabinet level — meaning the commissioner reports directly to Gov. Jared Police — will improve access, affordability, workforce support, whole-person care, accountability, and environmental and consumer guidance, by BHA Licensed Clinical Social Worker Stacey Davis said.
There has been progress, officials said. State lawmakers have appropriated $450 million in federal pandemic relief funds to increase beds, emergency response, care coordination, justice diversion, community gaps, workforce and youth programs. Covid-19 aid funding has helped build capacity and increase the number of responders for the new national 988 emergency hotline.
The Behavioral Health Administration will release a strategic plan next week covering the next three years, staff said. The document outlines where the administration is and where it is going.
Tom Miller, director of the administration’s Division of Quality and Standards, said a recurring complaint is that people are being sent back for services.
Regulatory reform and reform will stop this from happening, by setting up a “safety net system” where people are not denied due to their inability to pay or their ability level. Also, a new “cafeteria-style” licensing format is in the works, in which providers can pick and choose specific support areas from the baseline services they offer.
A new set of 300 pages of legislatively-directed rules must be completed by June 30, Miller said.
Behavioral health management service organizations should be established statewide by July 2024 to help coordinate patient care, reduce confusion for patients, manage services and ensure families get the behavioral health services they need, the speakers said.
A plan to establish a state-wide complaint and performance monitoring system should be submitted by July 2024.
Virtual town halls are held every month this year, the next one is scheduled for February 22 from 3-4 pm. Registration is on. https://bha.colorado.gov.
Some problems seem impossible to fix.
The extent to which insurance companies retain mental health providers and don’t cover patient care — even though mental health benefits are part of their insurance — are ongoing challenges, said French, the physician.
“The cost of care must be reduced,” he said. “Most outpatient practices have had to increase their rate of seeing patients within an hour, so you’re in and out and the patient doesn’t hear.”
At that point, he said, “You know the quality is going to suffer, or he may not want to pursue mental health care.”
It encourages people to stay strong, follow a clean diet, get regular exercise, improve sleep and focus on the here and now.
Such activities reduce stress, says French, who recommends that people intentionally make time for such exercises in their schedules.
“If people start to feel hopeless or not here or have active suicidal thoughts, things would be easier for them, please find someone,” he said. “Let someone know that things are getting to that point. We need to find ways to reach patients – their lives depend on it.