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Eagle County Paramedic Services Touts Bilingual Community Behavioral Health Navigators program

This photo and article first appeared in RealVail on May 27, 2020

Coco Andrade and Gladys Villa.

Eagle County Paramedic Services (ECPS) on Wednesday issued the following press release on the new Community Behavioral Health Navigators program:

In March, Eagle County Paramedic Services (ECPS) welcomed Gladys Villa and Coco Andrade to the team as Community Behavioral Health Navigators. The new positions, created in part from a grant from Eagle Valley Behavioral Health (EVBH) and the Katz Amsterdam Foundation, is an outreach of Vail Health and focuses on assisting high-risk, high-acuity mental health consumers in Eagle County. As bilingual, multicultural women, Andrade and Villa operate with a client‐centered approach, advocating, empowering and educating clients.

A week later, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the job description for these two women.

Andrade and Villa pivoted, applying their skills and community knowledge to assist with the MIRA (Mobile Intercultural Resource Alliance) bus, the 40-foot RV that provides services for Eagle County. The two conducted swab testing for COVID-19 with Vail Health’s Gypsum COVID-19 Testing Facility and MIRA bus and assisted with Community Paramedics during home visits.

As the community adjusts to evolving public health orders, and the ripple effects of COVID-19 result in greater behavioral health needs across our community, the Community Behavioral Health Navigators have shifted back to training for their original roles: providing mental health support to the community.

“With the uncertainty that COVID-19 has created, mental and behavioral health resources in our community are important now more than ever,” said Chris Lindley, Executive Director of EVBH. “Gladys and Coco are tremendous assets and having them provide support to our community members, including the Spanish-speaking community, is vital. The goal of EVBH is to provide our community with behavioral health resources and find solutions to gaps in the system, and the role of the Community Behavioral Health Navigators fills one glaring gap locally.”

The goal of the Navigators is to reduce barriers to care and work directly with clients to improve mental health outcomes through supportive case management, early intervention and client education and empowerment, explained Kevin Creek, Community Paramedic supervisor for ECPS.

“The Behavioral Health Navigators are not clinicians – they’re not trained to respond to crises or provide therapy – we have resources like the Hope Center and Mind Springs that do a great job with those services,” Creek said. “The Navigators are here to do just that: navigate. They can help you find a therapist, connect you to community resources or support groups and facilitate communication between mental health providers, among other things.”

For example: A friend lost his job due to COVID-19 and is feeling a lot of stress. Andrade or Villa could help that person find someone to talk to (connect with a therapist) and book an appointment or provide other resources.

“The Navigators are like the hub of a wheel, directing clients along the various spokes and helping our community navigate the various options,” Creek added.

As Eagle County transitions from high-alert due to COVID-19 and starts moving into the stages towards the “new normal,” resources like the Navigators will be more important than ever.

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