Our view: An ounce of prevention | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: An ounce of prevention

At issue

Yampa Valley Medical Center recently gifted $150,000 to county schools to boost behavioral health services and education

Our view

YVMC’s gift is precisely the sort of forward-thinking collaboration our community needs to address behavioral health concerns before they become problems

All too often, both hospitals and schools are faced with the unenviable task of addressing issues that have already metastasized into acute — and frequently insoluble — problems. And while this role is a crucial one, it is a far better strategy, whenever possible, to identify such issues early on and mitigate them while they are still in their infancy — an ounce of prevention, so to say.

Our view

YVMC’s gift is precisely the sort of forward-thinking collaboration our community needs to address behavioral health concerns before they become problems

That’s why we were gratified and encouraged last week by news of Yampa Valley Medical Center’s $150,000 gift to our county’s three school districts, money intended to help the schools improve their efforts in the area of behavioral health, including those related to substance abuse.

The hospital’s gift earmarked $100,000 for the Steamboat Springs School District and $25,000 each for the South Routt and Hayden districts.

The Steamboat district plans to use the funds to contract with Mind Springs Health for the hiring of two behavioral health professionals, who will work in the district during the upcoming school year.

In Soroco, the money will go to hiring a part-time temporary case manager for the district’s mental health team, a move district leaders say will ensure the current counselor spends less time on administrative housekeeping and more time working with students.

Finally, the Hayden district will use its share to supplement funding for a district behavioral health specialist, who will specifically work with a severe needs secondary student and two elementary students with behavior needs.

In all three cases, the unexpected windfall will fill gaps in behavioral health services, gaps which Marty Lamansky, district director of teaching and learning in the Steamboat district, said are significant.

“In this increasingly complex world that we live in, students are often caught up in a variety of circumstances that place incredible stress on them, leading to mental health issues,” Lamansky said. “When students are faced with these mental health issues, that becomes the priority for them … it is essential to address those issues so that they can then focus in on the business of school.”

We couldn’t agree more, particularly here in Northwest Colorado, where the legalization of marijuana has come with the unintended consequence of making the drug more accessible to children and teens, and the problem with opiate abuse is frequently described as “an epidemic.”

It should be axiomatic to say that preventing problems is almost always preferable to solving them, and enhancing schools’ behavioral health efforts seems, to us, a fantastic way of accomplishing the former.

We recently editorialized about the city of Steamboat Springs’ idea to levy additional taxes on alcohol, marijuana and tobacco to fund drug abuse prevention and treatment efforts, saying that, while the idea was a noble one, such was not truly within the purview of city government and would be better left to professionals familiar with the intricacies of the problem.

YVMC’s gift — and the schools’ attendant partnerships with Mind Springs Health and other mental health professionals — is precisely the kind of collaboration we were talking about, and we applaud the hospital, both for its generosity and its proactive, forward-thinking approach to this emergent issue.

It is unclear whether future gifts will be forthcoming, though YVMC CEO Frank May said the hospital plans to revisit its finances next year and, with feedback from the districts, determine if further funding would be feasible.

Even so, we encourage the districts to build on the foundation laid by this year’s gift and seek other such funding sources, while fostering partnerships with other professional groups intimately involved with the issue.

Any problem we can prevent is a problem we won’t have to solve.

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