Mountain family health centers

Pitkin County Commissioner George Newman, center, and other government officials attend the grand opening of Mountain Family Health Centers’ integrated health clinic in Basalt. The clinic, which move to its new space in January, provides medical, dental and behavioral-health services.

At a work session today, Pitkin County government staff and elected officials are expected to discuss the impact of last year’s four-way intergovernmental agreement that was designed to provide $448,000 to two nonprofits at the forefront of local mental-health initiatives.

And later this month, county commissioners will have an opportunity to approve a similar agreement, at the same dollar amount, for 2019. The funding is viewed by local public health officials and other stakeholders as a key element in the recent drive to improve and coordinate mental-health services not only in Pitkin County but across the Roaring Fork Valley.

“Mental health is still the primary health concern impacting those who live, work and play in Pitkin County,” a recent memorandum to commissioners from county public health staff says.

Three years ago, the county and other stakeholders participated in strategic planning that led to the aforementioned memo statement about the importance of addressing mental health at the local level. Data collected during those 2016-17 planning efforts showed that suicide, substance abuse and mental-health disorders continue to be top concerns in the community.

Collaborative assessments revealed assets and gaps in what is called the “mental health continuum of care,” which involves prevention, intervention, treatment and after-care, the memo says. It highlighted the local programs and services that were “robust, missing and fragmented,” according to the memo.

The general result of the assessments was the development of a new “model of collaborative funding” to provide additional mental-health support within the community, the memo states. And through that model, last year’s intergovernmental agreement was born, with the county, city of Aspen, Aspen School District and Aspen Valley Hospital joining forces to provide nearly $500,000 to two nonprofits: Mind Springs Health and Mountain Family Health Centers.

“By pooling our dollars together, we were actually able to leverage the funding to create more positions than we had when all these agencies were just providing funding individually,” county public health director Karen Koenemann said Monday. “That was a unique thing to see happen — by working together, we actually got more services.”

Of the $488,000 for 2018, the county’s Healthy Community Fund, a pool of money for health and human services across the valley that’s supported through a voter-approved property tax, provided $304,500. The city of Aspen chipped in $70,500, Aspen Valley Hospital gave a little more than $73,000 and the remaining $40,000 came from the Aspen School District.

For 2019, the purposes for the money and the funding amounts are largely the same, Koenemann said. The four funding partners and the two nonprofit recipients have not changed, she said.

Uses for the money include:

• Salaries for a community-based mental health team consisting of a full-time licensed therapist, full-time case manager and funding for 60 hours of a psychiatric nurse practitioner’s time for the Pitkin County Jail.

• Two full-time behavioral-health specialists and two full-time patient-care coordinators for the Basalt clinic operated by Mountain Family Health Centers.

• Two school-district therapists, one for Aspen’s district and one for Basalt’s.

The four-way funding collaboration to Mind Springs Health and Mountain Family Health Centers serves to free up revenue from other sources for other mental-health services in the valley, effectively leveraging dollars all around, Koenemann said.

Not all of the money allocated for the 2018 contract was used, she said, as the program took awhile to get started. Those surplus funds could be allocated toward other purposes, such as Mind Springs programs for mental health first-aid training in 2019.

Commissioners meet at the new county administration building, 530 E. Main St. The portion of today’s work session that relates to mental-health funding is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and may take up to an hour.

Many diverse topics are slated for today’s gathering, including a airport greenhouse gas update at 11 a.m.; Phillips Trailer Park site planning at 2:30 p.m.; landfill operations and a related building project at 3:30 p.m.; and a library update at 4 p.m.   

Andre is a reporter for Aspen Daily News. He can be reached at