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Statewide youth mental health crisis affects Montezuma County

Speakers at a roundtable hosted by Children’s Hospital Colorado are
State organizations urge Gov. Polis to allocate $150 million for youth mental health

Montezuma County youths are not immune to a statewide mental health emergency, said Rebecca Doughty, program director of Four Corners Youth Clinics and member of the Colorado Association of School-Based Health Clinics.

Doughty spoke at a virtual roundtable hosted by Children’s Hospital Colorado Tuesday, which heard speakers from the hospital, Healthier Colorado, the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Colorado Association of School-Based Health Centers and the Colorado Education Association discuss a mental health crisis that has affected youths in Colorado and across the nation.

The alliance of children’s health advocates are championing for $150 million in state American Rescue Plan Act funds to go toward children’s mental health, and created a detailed “playbook” outlining policy and funding solutions to address the problem.

Currently, there is $450 million in ARPA funds left that have been allocated for mental health resources in Colorado. The organizations are urging Gov. Jared Polis and policymakers to assign one-third of that supply toward children’s mental health, as 31% of Colorado’s population is composed of people under age 24.

On May 25, Children’s Hospital Colorado declared a statewide youth mental health emergency.

In Colorado, suicide is the leading cause of death in children between the ages of 10 and 19, and it more than doubled from 2007 to 2020, according to Children’s Hospital Colorado.

On Oct. 20, the Children’s Hospital Association announced a nationwide pediatric mental health crisis.

In Montezuma County, school-based health clinics operate at Southwest Open School and Dolores Schools to serve youths up to age 21.

They serve as primary care practices, offering physical and behavioral services. Four Corners Youth Clinics is in a partnership with the Montezuma County Health Department, and even offers dental and family planning services, Doughty said.

Doughty said the local ongoing mental health crisis has been exacerbated by COVID-19 and isolation brought on by the pandemic.

Before the pandemic, one out of every five patients who attended a clinic expressed a need for behavioral health services.

Now, that number is four out of five, she said.

“For an integrated clinic, that is really important, because that then allows us to treat the whole person,” she said.

The clinics have seen an increase in suicidal ideation, she told The Journal. High school students self-report depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts more than other age subsets, she said.

At Southwest Open School, 90% of students who visit the clinic have a history of trauma, abuse or neglect, she said.

This year, Four Corners Youth Clinics has sent more students to Denver for inpatient care than ever before because of suidical ideations, she said.

“I think access to care has been a challenge in rural areas,” she said. “And I say that because the lack of qualified licensed health professionals, especially in rural areas, really does limit us when we need to refer out.”

Doughty hopes that Montezuma County will one day have its own inpatient clinic.

She also has other ambitions for the future of integrated health care.

Locally, she would like to see monthly collaboration monthly between providers to brainstorm collective solutions for challenges facing children.

At the roundtable, she suggested providing more funded opportunities for people to expand their education to become nurses or behavioral therapists. Currently, there are 70 school-based health centers in Colorado, but Doughty wants to see more.

At the local clinics, there are two licensed professional counselors and one nurse practitioner.

“I would also say that kids are finding their voices, which is really important because the kids are learning that there is not any stigma attached to coming into the clinic and receiving any type of service,” she said.

Colorado Teacher of the Year Gerardo Muñoz said that workforce shortages are being felt across the state, and that schools are “ground zero” for mental health.

Rebecca Doughty, Program Director at Four Corners Youth Clinics, offered her perspective on the mental health crisis affecting youths

How to get help

Help for people having suicidal thoughts or for those who fear a person is considering suicide.

Axis Care Hotline: 24/7 local response to your crisis & behavioral health needs, (970) 247-5245.

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE: (800) 273-TALK (8255) or text “TALK” to 741741.



BOYS TOWN HOTLINE: (800) 448-3000.

SAFE2TELL COLORADO: (877) 542-7233 or safe2tell.org.

COLORADO CRISIS SUPPORT LINE: (844) 493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 or online at coloradocrisisservices.org to access a live chat available in 17 languages. The line has mental-health professionals available to talk to adults or youths 24 hours a day.

AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION: Colorado chapter information available at afsp.org/chapter/afsp-colorado/.

FOR MEN:A website for adult men contemplating suicide is available at mantherapy.org.