Delta, CO (October 19, 2020) – According to The State of Mental Health in America report, in 2019, 1 in 5 Coloradans reported experiencing a mental health condition. That is just one of many statistics regarding the prevalence of behavioral health disorders among Coloradans.
Evaluating and setting a roadmap to improve the current behavioral health system in the state was the mission of the Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force (BHTF) that developed and presented Colorado’s Behavioral Health Blueprint to Governor Polis in August.
Rebecca Ela, MSW, LCSW and Director of Behavioral Health at Delta Health (Delta Health) was asked to join the BHTF to provide guidance and perspective on the behavioral health challenges that rural communities in Colorado face.
“What really hit home during this process is how confusing the [behavioral health] system is,” said Ela. “We looked at ways to identify accessible, affordable, quality behavioral health services throughout the state with multiple entry systems. [We want people to be able] to access services at school, through the health department or their primary care provider so that not everyone has to go through a community mental health center.”
Ela was invited to join the BHTF in 2019 to serve for one year and to look at the barriers to accessing behavioral health services throughout the state. She felt that since she lived and served a rural community she could speak well to the issues present on the Western Slope.
“Our goal was to submit a blueprint to the Governor with recommendations that were quantified into six pillars: access, affordability, workforce and support, accountability, local and consumer guidance and whole-person care. Each of those pillars was then broken down to show where opportunities for improvement could be made.”
Those pillars then fall into a 3 System Reform that will be rolled out over the next one to five years. The reform includes the creation of a behavioral health administration, the implementation of care coordination and the top 19 recommendations within the six pillars.
“One of the key takeaways is that the changes we’re looking to make are going to take a long time,” said Ela. “We’re talking about changing policies and legislation and it requires action at the state level. One of our top concerns was asking how these recommendations would get carried out, and the Behavioral Health Administration will help oversee these changes.”
The task force also set up testimonies to hear from the public about their journey within the Behavioral Health system; the challenges being worked through and any suggestions they had to make the system work better for all Coloradans. The videos helped inform the BHTF about personal journeys and experiences and helped guide their work.
“Here at Delta Health we practice whole-person care and integrated behavioral health care,” said Ela. “That means we look at the social determinants of health such as transportation, food security, housing, social isolation, interpersonal violence and all of the components that might cause someone to not do well.”
For a lot of rural communities on the Western Slope, budget cuts have also affected health care providers’ ability to serve those in need, said Ela. The hope is that this blueprint will help address some of those longer-term issues that do affect rural communities specifically while also addressing the need to make the services simpler to access.
Delta Health has continued to expand its integrated behavioral health services at its primary care clinics in Delta County. Call a Delta Health primary care clinic or visit deltahealthco.org to learn more.
To learn more about the BHTF, visit online at colorado.gov/pacific/cdhs/colorado-behavioral-health-task-force where you will also find the Behavioral Health Blueprint for Reform.