As more kids turn up in the ER during a mental health crisis, HealthOne employees realized they needed to create more resources.
DENVER — As more kids turn up in an emergency room in the middle of a mental health crisis, HealthOne doctors realized they didn’t have enough places to connect these young people to ongoing help.
That’s when they decided to internally expand the HealthONE Behavioral Health and Wellness Outpatient services at Saddle Rock, specifically to offer more intermediate help, in between inpatient help and therapy alone.
Stephanie Camacho, director of outpatient services, said as more kids were coming in through their ER, they realized they didn’t always have the answer to where kids could get more long term help.
There’s a shortage across the board, but especially for intermediate help. It’s the kind of help that can keep a kid out of an emergency room.
It’s lacking because it can be tricky to set up.
“It’s a highly intensive environment,” Dr. Jason Williams with Children’s Hospital Colorado said. “There is spacing and staffing. Another barrier is insurance. Medicaid doesn’t pay for partial level of care or day treatment in some circumstances.”
That means some kids are treated and go back into the community. They don’t always have enough support and could end up back in the emergency room.
Children’s is expanding their intermediate care at multiple locations as well.
Connecting with the community:
Camacho said they work closely with the community and school district.
“Folks in our schools noticed this age group, schools are struggling to provide this support. They can’t be the only support,” she said.
Boulder Valley School District said they were lucky enough to fill four open councilor spots, but it’s been a tough market.
JeffCo Schools is using COVID relief dollars to build up telehealth services.
Denver Public Schools is working to fill four open spots and placing interns, studying to be councilors at local colleges, in the hopes to hire them full time down the road.
DPS also knows families are looking for that intermediate care and continue to work on referral pathways.
The impacts of COVID, and the fact that outpatient care is not always nearby or accessible, are also reasons that intensify the need for intermediate care.
Intermediate care in action:
HealthOne’s program is for kids ages nine to 17, with a special emphasis on nine through 11 years old. Camacho said it’s a good age to start working with kids to build skills.
At HealthOne, it would include nine hours of therapy a week. At Children’s it could look like outpatient help three days a week, and a combination of group and individual therapy.
Both hospital systems said they work off both referrals as well as families can call them directly.
What Williams would like to see more of is crisis evaluation and stabilization.
“Need a place where kids can get a crisis evaluation and stabilized over a number of days and then get community supports in place. We don’t have enough of those in the state of Colorado,” he said.
Williams said the state is looking into building up resources like that, specifically for kids.
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