This article was first published in the Vail Daily on October 1, 2019.
EAGLE COUNTY — Five months ago, Vail Health made a $60 million pledge to champion local behavioral health efforts.
Tuesday, Vail Health has made a delivery on that promise by launching EagleValleyBH.org and the “LONG LIVE” campaign.
“If any community in this country can reverse the trends in behavioral health we are seeing, it will be this valley,” said Michael Holton, Vail Health’s VP of marketing and communications. “We will unpack the words we whisper, and it’s going to change this valley. Nobody is going to talk about this louder, and we want to make sure everyone in the valley sees there is help here.”
Holton calls the website a game-changer. It isn’t a hyperbolic claim. For the first time, EagleValleyBH.org offers a single place where locals in need of behavioral health services can go for help. Likewise, the LONG LIVE campaign is aimed at destigmatizing behavioral health needs and acknowledging the local need.
On that subject, the local need has been well documented:
- Eagle County averaged nearly a suicide attempt per day in 2018 (324 total).
- Nearly one in four (226) local seventh and eighth graders seriously considered suicide in 2017.
- 16% (157) of local seventh and eighth graders have made a suicide plan.
- Colorado ranks 43rd for mental health in the U.S. (2018 Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Assessment).
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for Coloradans aged 10 to 24.
When someone visits Eagle ValleyBH.org, one of the first things he or she will notice is a red “Get help now” button at the top of the page. That link connects to emergency services, the Colorado Crisis Center and local therapists. From this triage-inspired beginning, the scope of the valley’s behavioral health options unfolds.
The “local therapist” drop-down menu lists 45 individual practices in the valley. Each therapist listing shows the location, specialties, availability and costs of services provided. Some listings include an option to book an appointment.
A “careers” drop-down menu features a listing of all behavioral health job openings in the valley including private practice, government and health care organization listings. The mission and vision for Eagle Valley Behavioral Health, an outline of upcoming events and volunteer and donation opportunities are also listed at EagleValleyBH.org.
In short, the website is a clearinghouse that, for the first time, gives Eagle Valley residents a comprehensive resource to address their behavioral health needs.
When he was working to build the website, Eagle Valley Behavior Health Executive Director Chris Lindley was actually surprised to learn how many services are available in the community. When the Vail Health IT team reached out to all the providers to enlist their participation in the website effort, members of the group were equally taken aback
“Does anyone in here know everyone in the room? Does anyone know even half of the people in the room?” asked Lindley during an Eagle Valley Behavioral Health luncheon last month that 50-plus behavioral health professionals attended. During that session, Lindley walked the professionals through the new website options and invited them to include their information on the site.
“We want to find technology and infrastructure to link everyone here together,” Lindley told the group. He stressed the comprehensive effort won’t mean less business for any of the individual practices.
“If you, for one minute, think there is a shortage of need in this valley, you are in fantasyland,” said Lindley. “We are not here to take away any of your work. We are here to amplify and support your efforts.”
Judging by the number of local practices listed on EagleValleyBH.org as it launches, the group bought into that vision. Now the effort will extend to the valley as a whole.
Featuring startling messages and vibrant colors, the Eagle Valley Behavioral Health LONG LIVE campaign will be hard to miss.
The campaign declares: LONG LIVE the alcoholic, LONG LIVE the abused, LONG LIVE the betrayed, LONG LIVE the depressed, LONG LIVE the bipolar.
“The idea is if we are going to wake this community up, we can’t walk softly. We need to shake people by the shoulders,” said Holton.
That shoulder-shaking effort begins Tuesday, but look for a lot more action in the weeks and months ahead. From advocating in favor of a proposed Eagle County tobacco tax that could bring in an estimated $8 million to $10 million annually for public health services to a fundraising campaign that will launch in late 2019, the new nonprofit has identified six major initiatives:
- A cross-functional behavioral health facility
- Increased provider access and capacity
- System coordination and transformation
- Increased prevention and education
- Increased crisis response and transition services
- Institute school-based services
Lindley noted it will take an estimated $121 million to $218 million to accomplish all these efforts.
“Addressing behavioral health is way more complicated than addressing physical health. But moving forward, you will be hearing from us,” he said.
Watch the video below to learn more about EagleValleyBH.org and the ‘LONG LIVE’ campaign.