Our View: Mind Springs’ work is too important not to pay attention
Newfound attention has landed on Mind Springs Health after an investigative series from the Colorado News Collaborative unearthed concerns about how community mental health centers might be failing some of our most vulnerable residents. On another level, the reporting has also cast doubt on the threads of accountability tied to how the private nonprofit spends public money.
Mind Springs Health is responsible for providing a mental health safety net in Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Summit and Routt counties. Mind Springs exists as one of a handful of community mental health centers covering different regions across the state by offering inpatient and outpatient mental health services to those on Medicaid or without insurance.
While the Colorado News Collaborative found many mental health treatment centers are failing some of the most vulnerable Coloradans, the news group highlighted Mind Springs as standing out “for intense community disappointment about access to and the quality of its care,” especially in Summit County, where community leaders are most critical.
It’s important to say that, while Eagle County is breaking ties with Mind Springs in favor of setting up its own mental health care safety net — and Summit County is working to join Eagle in it — other communities in the Mind Springs coverage area are much more content with the services received. Commissioners in Grand County have been complimentary of Mind Springs’ work.
Recent reporting from Steamboat Pilot & Today Reporter Suzie Romig on Mind Springs’ work in Routt County showed there have been many positive outcomes here. Furthermore, it was nice to read that local response times are far less than the average.
There is always room for more transparency and growth within any organization, but in many cases, it does seem like Mind Springs has done a good job locally.
For Routt County’s part, our county commissioners haven’t been as critical as much as they have repeatedly asked for heightened transparency.
Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton signed onto a letter asking Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to take immediate action on reforming Colorado’s mental health safety-net system and more closely regulating regional community mental health centers. The other two Routt commissioners also agreed with the letter’s demands.
“We don’t know where the money goes or how it is being spent,” Melton was quoted telling the news collaborative as she pushed for a better understanding of what services are being provided in the community.
On Jan. 4, Mind Springs CEO Sharon Raggio resigned abruptly. She had announced a planned resignation earlier this year, but she sped up the effective date by six months without prior notice. In her resignation announcement, she referenced the news coverage, saying she felt her “continued presence within the organization may act as a distraction from our core mission of delivering exceptional mental health and addiction recovery care to the communities we serve. Therefore, I made the difficult decision to resign from my position now rather than waiting for my planned retirement in June.”
Last week, more reporting emerged confirming the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing has launched a joint audit of Mind Springs Health with the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Also last week, Mind Springs interim CEO Doug Pattison told the Routt County Board of Commissioners that he wants to increase transparency with the counties in which the nonprofit operates.
Commissioners did not take any action at the meeting but did express a desire to go over financial information in more depth. This financial information was not included with other data Mind Springs provided prior to the meeting but was emailed to commissioners during the discussion.
We believe that the more attention paid to mental health and the services available, the better. The state agencies’ financial review is a necessary step toward restoring accountability and moving forward in the best way possible. In response to the CEO’s resignation, many community leaders reiterated calls for more transparency, saying a change in leadership wasn’t necessarily the reform they were looking for, and we agree.
Mind Springs is one of our only providers for mental health treatment that treats the people most at risk of slipping through the safety net. These services are essential not just in Routt but across most of the Western Slope. The concern is that community mental health centers haven’t been good stewards of their responsibility as critical care providers for the most vulnerable, as well as of the significant sum of money they’ve been given to achieve that task.
Summit and Eagle counties are going another route, and that could remake the state’s mental health care safety net. We don’t know that Routt County is in the same place as Summit and Eagle, but we do want a good, robust system for addressing mental health care issues.
The idea that the state, county commissioners and Mind Springs leadership are all looking more closely into the nonprofit’s use of state money is exactly what we want to hear. Much of the time, headlines lead to outrage, and that sparks calls for newfound accountability, but those platitudes fade quickly. We’re glad to see the continued coverage and continued conversations.
Instead of moving on to the next issue, state lawmakers, local leaders and others are taking immediate action; it’s nice to see that. It’s what you want from your government. Our public officials need to be the guardrails that ensure public money goes to promote the public good as best it can. We all need to learn more about the programs and how the average person can access mental health care. It’s important for all of us to take the initiative. Let’s hope that continues.
At issue: Recent reporting from the Colorado News Collaborative has raised questions about the services and financial transparency provided by community mental health centers, including Mind Springs Health, which covers Routt County.
Our View: In Routt, we haven’t seen many of the problems that have been reported in Eagle or Summit counties, and there’s a lot of good work that happens here, but we still believe that good things can come from the heightened attention.
• Bonnie Stewart, publisher
• Eli Pace, editor
• Cuyler Meade, assistant editor
• Ana Gomez, community representative
• Kelly McElfish, community representative
Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or epace@SteamboatPilot.com.
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