Will Colorado’s New Mental Health Clinics Stop Future Tragedies?

mentalhealthAs the long, painful trial of the Aurora theater shooter finally draws to a close this summer, there are promising signs about the future of Colorado’s mental health care.

Back in 2013, Gov. John Hickenlooper and the state legislature approved $20 million for improved mental health services and walk-in treatment centers for those in crisis. Now, one such facility is opening in Fort Collins, the first of its kind in the area.

“Basically it’s an opportunity for people to come in, 24/7 to meet with a licensed clinician if they are having any sort of behavioral health crisis,” says crisis services coordinator Teresa Sedlak.

The facility, and others like it, fuses two major trends in the U.S. health care market — the rise of urgent care facilities and an increased focus on mental health. Urgent care centers have emerged as a crucial, cost-saving alternative to the emergency room for many Americans. Each week, an estimated three million people visit U.S. urgent care centers.

And after tragedies like the Sandy Hook school shooting and the Aurora theater shooting, Colorado has been pioneering new ways to provide urgent care services to those suffering from mental illness.

The Fort Collins facility will be the 13th of its kind in the state, and is specifically being billed as “urgent care for your mind.”

“What this facility does is normalize behavioral health, that it’s really OK to walk in and be greeted and address whatever you have,” says developmental specialist Chris Fine.

Anyone over the age of five is welcome at the facility, and there are “stabilization rooms” available for in-patient stays of up to five days.

Because most mass shooters, including Aurora gunman James Holmes, suffer from mental illness and spend months planning their killing sprees, Colorado officials hope the new mental health centers will fill a desperate need for better mental health care access.

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