Lake County to Benefit from Grant
“We have never had the appropriate higher levels of care available in rural Colorado and people are forced to travel all the way to Denver, Colorado Springs or Grand Junction for help,” stated Brian Turner, CEO of Solvista Health. “It’s time that changes.” And with this week’s announcement that Solvista Health was recently awarded a $700,000 grant to help build a comprehensive Regional Assessment Center to treat mental health and substance use needs in the region will help facilitate that change. While the plan is to build the treatment center in Salida, Lake County residents will benefit from its services, bringing healthcare options that much closer to home.
The grant is made possible through Colorado House Bill 19-1287, which passed last legislative session at the Colorado State Capitol and targeted treatment in rural and frontier counties. The bill was crafted by the Opioid and Substance Use Disorder Interim Committee of the legislature and had broad bipartisan support, including passing the State Senate by unanimous vote.
“Fighting for rural Colorado is a constant battle here at the Capitol,” said Representative Jim Wilson. “It is great to win one once in a while, particularly one of this magnitude, for my community.”
The award was made by AspenPointe MSO and the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health, who are championing an infusion of resources to tackle the opioid epidemic and substance abuse statewide. The grant will specifically support the development of a withdrawal management and recovery center for substance abuse. “While Solvista Health and other providers have been working hard to expand a variety of treatment options in the region, this will be the first of its kind providing a higher level of care,” said Turner. “Research shows an undeniable connection between substance use, mental health, and overall health. So, we have teamed up with our local partners and community leaders to design an option that will provide an integrated, comprehensive approach.”
Solvista Health is hoping to raise $6.5 million to realize the full vision of a Regional Assessment Center that will serve Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Lake, Park, and surrounding counties. The facility will be located on the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center campus in Salida and is an example of the growing collaboration between the two nonprofit organizations. The cooperation doesn’t end there. Planning has been underway largely through the Region 13 Substance Abuse Regional Coalition (SARC) and will continue with increased engagement and feedback from community members.
“We are thrilled to be a partner in this effort alongside so many others,” said Dave Henson, Executive Director for Chaffee County Department of Human Services. “Over 50 public and private organizations signed on in support of this grant proposal across the region. We recognize the power of collaboration and share the goal of making our communities a healthy, thriving place for everyone to live, work and play.”
Construction is expected to begin this summer with a goal of opening by early 2021. Tax-deductible contributions can be made by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opioid Treatment Available at RMFP
“It’s been pretty clear to me over the past year, that we, as well as the rest of the nation, have an opioid use disorder problem in Lake County,” stated Dr. Lisa Zwerdlinger, owner and physician with Rocky Mountain Family Practice (RMFP). That discovery has led to the establishment of the first opioid use disorder treatment center in Leadville.
Started in May 2019, the Leadville clinic involves evaluating the individual’s need for medications, monitoring their medication, and introducing buprenorphine/suboxone, a FDA-approved medication for the treatment of opioid use disorder. This drug prevents people from going through withdrawal, without the intoxication. The treatment allows people who have a dependence on certain opioids, like heroin, to come in for an evaluation, be taken off their substance and be transitioned into this other medication.
“This program is the one thing that’s been missing,” explained Dr. Lisa as she is familiarly known in Leadville Today. “We have excellent mental health services, good emergency services, and good primary care.”
The RMFP team has undergone formal training for this nationally-recognized program and is prepared to meet the community needs. In addition, they have partnered with Solvista Health for mental health services, as well as the St. Vincent Hospital Emergency Room staff.
“The emergency room is equipped with many lifesaving drugs, one of which can immediately reverse the effects of the narcotic, protect the airway and prevent the patient from dying,” expressed Dr. Lisa, reiterating that all residents can have confidence in local emergency services. There should be no hesitancy for anyone in an emergency situation involving heroin or any other opioid substance, to not immediately seek help at the local emergency room at St. Vincent Hospital in Leadville.
“The plan is to make the program as welcoming as we can,” said Dr. Zwerdlinger explaining that most patients schedule an intake appointment like everybody else. At this point, a patient doesn’t have to explain the reason for the doctor visit when they make the appointment, or they can. However, patients taking full advantage of the opioid use disorder treatment center have to be willing to go to mental health services, be willing to submit to urine drug screens, be actively engaged on a regular basis and adhere to the treatment protocol.
These programs have proven to be successful in other communities, allowing medical professionals to remove barriers to treatment for people with co-occurring disorders and provide them with a structured, 24-hour setting to assist in their recovery. If you or someone you love could benefit from this program it will be available at Rocky Mountain Family Practice beginning May 1, 2019. Patients may schedule an appointment by calling 719-486-0500. Rocky Mountain Family Practice is a full spectrum family practice offering everything from urgent care to primary care. RMFP is located at 735 US Highway 24 at McWethy Drive in Leadville. Call 719-486-0500.