Following years of increased emergency room visits for anxiety and depression and a spike in suicide rates from six to sixteen in 2017, it is clear that community collaboration is crucial to address the behavioral health crisis. Through funding from a recreational marijuana tax and a $60 million commitment from Vail Health and community partners, Eagle Valley Behavioral Health was established.

Eagle Valley Behavioral Health will manage a plan for funding, accountability and fundraising while leading the community collaboration to ensure access to superior behavioral health services. Six key initiatives and strategies for implementation have been identified.
    Vail Health has purchased land in Edwards and is working with Eagle Valley Behavioral Health and Eagle County to design a comprehensive behavioral health facility mid-valley. The County is planning to add a bus stop at the campus, linking it into the County's ECO transit system. Current plans include a crisis stabilization unit with six adult and six adolescent crisis stabilization beds, a social detox unit, and a psych urgent care with 24/7 walk-in service. These plans are conceptual and need further analysis, discussion and approvals before being finalized. 
    Currently, the Eagle River Valley has only 50% of the recommended licensed Behavioral Health providers as compared to the Colorado state average on a per capita basis.  Colorado ranks 43rd in the country (50th being the worst) for behavioral health providers per capita.  We aim to attract and retain over 100 additional Behavioral Health providers over the next five to seven years, bringing the number of providers in this valley well above the national average.  

    We hope that many of these new providers can come directly from within our community.  We are currently working with partners to set up scholarships and assistance programs for local students to gain the training and education needed to work in the behavioral health field in our valley.   

    While we work to fill the gap of providers we will supplement the care via telemedicine services.  We are currently partnering with 3 separate telemedicine providers to provide behavioral health care across the valley.  We aim to streamline these efforts and have a comprehensive telemedical system that supports the behavioral health continuum of care. 

    In order to increase access and capacity, we are also exploring innovative ways of lowering barriers to accessing behavioral health care. One such program is the establishment of a financial assistance request portal where individuals can seek financial assistance for treatment.

    We are also working with Mountain Family Health Centers and Colorado Mountain Medical to fully integrate behavioral health care into all primary care settings across the valley and to ensure 100% behavioral health screening at all primary care visits.  
    With over 30 organizations within the Eagle River Valley working on Behavioral Health, it is critical that our efforts are well coordinated. To do this we must have continuous communication, systems and plans to keep us all aligned in addressing the same objectives.  Eagle Valley Behavioral Health was established to serve as the backbone organization working with all partners to ensure this coordination. Collectively, we will transform the behavioral health system throughout the Eagle River Valley by creating a multiplier effect through partnerships with advocates, benefactors and community-based providers with effective delivery systems.

    To ensure effective and efficient communication and coordination across the behavioral healthcare system, we are also establishing a community-wide behavioral health electronic medical record exchange.  Building off of the electronic medical record exchanges of our primary care providers, hospital and EMS providers, we will bring in additional providers and partners to establish a confidential data repository and analysis system.  
    In order to be successful with the other initiatives, we know we must move upstream and reduce the number of individuals who need care. To do this, we are going to significantly invest in prevention and education by both supporting proven programming and filling gaps through new initiatives. Prevention skills development will help to increase protective factors while decreasing common risk factors in our community. The protective factors we are working to bolster include civic engagement and improving social connections. Social determinants of health will be addressed through increased investment in early childhood services. 

    In October 2019, we will be launching a comprehensive anti-stigma campaign. With the launch of this campaign, we will also be launching which, with time, will be the single online source of information for all behavioral health resources in the community, including upcoming training and education, Eagle Valley’s behavioral health provider directory, and all behavioral health job listings in the valley. 

    Future efforts will also be targeted towards changing our social norms regarding excessive alcohol use within this valley. We will be partnering with the other resort communities across the country as we aim to change social norms about alcohol and substance abuse in resort communities.
    Over the past year, the community has established a mobile crisis response system that is tied to both our paramedics and our local law enforcement agencies.  This system, lead by the Hope Center, responds to all 911 behavioral health calls with crisis clinicians to respond at the point of need.  The objective is to provide the care and stabilize the individual in the field or in the privacy of their home versus transporting the individual to the hospital or county jail.  To date, we have seen a 74% reduction of transports to the hospital emergency department and county jail.  

    After individuals have been stabilized, there is a critical need to transition those individuals back into an outpatient setting. Additional providers will be needed who can assist in coordinating this transition and ensure that no one falls through the cracks.
    We will be working to increase funding to support the placement of additional school-based clinicians in our public and private schools so every school in the valley has at least one clinician. We are starting the 2019-20 school year with nine clinicians in the Eagle County School District and aim to secure additional funding for eight additional clinicians, which would place a clinician in every elementary, middle, and high school in the Eagle River Valley.

    We are also working with the Eagle County School District to develop a comprehensive wellness curriculum that would highlight what social, emotional, and prevention and education framework would be covered at each grade level.
    With all of the work listed above, it will be critical for EVBH to collect and report on data to measure whether the behavioral health strategies being deployed in our community are having the intended impact.  EVBH will be developing an evaluation plan to gather, measure, analyze and report on this data over the next 10 years.  EVBH is also planning to invest in publishing our results and case studies to share our experiences and help nurture a culture that values data-based decision-making. We intend to become a national leader as we transform the behavioral health landscape of the Eagle River Valley.
    The behavioral health landscape is rapidly changing both nationally and within the state of Colorado. Trends include national initiatives such as mental health parity and health insurance reform, state opportunities such as Medicaid benefit expansions and statewide attention to behavioral health system administration and payment structures.  There are many opportunities and areas of need that may not currently be known. As opportunities present themselves, EVBH will remain nimble and quick to execute.  Doing so requires both monitoring of national trends and opportunities and investing in local “proof of concept” projects to continue to improve behavioral health in our mountain community.
    EVBH is providing behavioral health support and coordination across many of Vail Health departments and subsidiaries.  By coordinating referrals, supporting integrated behavioral health efforts, and improving patient transition back into the community, outcomes will be improved at a lower cost.  EVBH is also working with Vail Health’s insurance provider to establish a new and innovative behavioral health employee assistance program (EAP), known as “Mountain Strong”. Employees and their dependents are eligible for six free behavioral health sessions per incident per year using a variety of local and national behavioral health providers with a diverse array of specialty areas.  This EAP offering will be extended to other community employers in Eagle River Valley in the months and years ahead.   
Logo depicting a tree with the words 'Eagle Valley Behavioral Health'

Eagle Valley Behavioral Health was established to serve as the backbone organization to lead the community collaboration in transforming the Eagle Valley behavioral health system.