A new film from ski racer Bode Miller and Emmy-award-winning filmmaker Brett Rapkin with Podium Pictures is delving into the mental and behavioral health challenges that disproportionately affect mountain communities.
Titled “Paradise Paradox,” the film explores the contradictory nature of mountain living: That while the mountains offer escape, adventure and beauty, communities are grappling with significant wealth gaps, high cost of living, higher rates of suicide, substance and alcohol abuse and other mental and behavioral health challenges.
In 2017, Eagle County’s mental health crisis peaked with 17 suicides. Concurrently, the county had the second lowest number of licensed providers per capita in the state. And Colorado was the 48th in the country. As Chris Lindley, Vail Health Behavioral Health’s executive director, puts it in the movie: “We were losing the race of losers.”
The film follows Eagle county’s grassroots efforts to address the mental health crisis — including stops at Endorphin and Color Coffee in Eagle Ranch, The Riverwalk in Edwards and Vail Village — but also through the steps Eagle County has taken to address mental and behavioral health in the valley.
This includes the stories behind the passage of 1A, which taxed retail marijuana sales and directed funds toward mental health; the 10-year, $60 million commitment from Vail Health’s board in 2019; the Precourt family donation to create an outpatient facility in the community; the creation and contributions of nonprofits like SpeakUp ReachOut, Your Hope Center and My Future Pathways; the creation of the 24/7 crisis line and co-response model; and the many ways the community came together.
“It requires everybody leaning in, removing a stigma, pooling precious resources, making sure commercial insurance companies are pulling their weight, so on and so forth,” said Will Cook, president and CEO of Vail Health.