Solvista Health was awarded a $700,000 grant from AspenPointe MSO and the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health toward a comprehensive Regional Assessment Center to treat mental health and substance use needs in rural Central Colorado, Solvista CEO Brian Turner announced Friday.

The planned facility is to be built on the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center campus in Salida.

The grant was made possible through Colorado HB19-1287, which passed in the last state legislative session and was signed into law May 14 by Gov. Jared Polis.

The legislation was specifically targeted at rural and frontier communities for substance use treatment.

Gwen Ferguson, public information officer for Solvista, said the grant is a major win for this region of rural Colorado and is a significant award in helping Solvista Health reach its goal of raising $6.5 million for the project.

Turner described the gap in appropriate behavioral health services in rural Colorado as “a 13,000-square-mile doughnut hole, smack dab across the middle of our state.”

“Our state ranks in the top 10 nationally for alarming rates of drug and alcohol problems, and yet we are also among the highest for unmet treatment needs,” Turner said.

“We have never had the appropriate higher levels of care available in rural Colorado, and people are forced to travel all the way to Denver, Colorado Springs or Grand Junction for help. It’s time that changes,” he said.

HB 19-1287 targeted treatment in rural and frontier counties. The bill was crafted by the Opioid and Substance Use Disorder Interim Committee of the legislature and had broad bipartisan support, including passing the state Senate by unanimous vote.

“Fighting for rural Colorado is a constant battle here at the Capitol,” Rep. Jim Wilson (R-Salida) said. “It is great to win one once in a while, particularly one of this magnitude, for my community.”

The grant will specifically support development of a withdrawal management and recovery center for substance abuse.

“While Solvista Health and other providers have been working hard to expand a variety of treatment options in the region, this will be the first of its kind providing a higher level of care,” Turner said.

“Research shows an undeniable connection between substance use, mental health and overall health. So, we have teamed up with our local partners and community leaders to design an option that will provide an integrated, comprehensive approach.”

Solvista Health hopes to raise $6.5 million to realize the full vision of a Regional Assessment Center that will serve Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Lake, Park and surrounding counties.

Solvista Chief Nursing Officer Tammy Moruzzi said, while the new facility is not intended to house a residential program, the current plan is to have an inpatient substance withdrawal management unit where patients can stay for several days and then have their long-term needs assessed and formulate a treatment plan.

A smaller transitional unit for those needing more time to make those decisions is also planned.

Solvista plans to move its adult outpatient services to the new facility when completed, but no decisions have been made about moving child services.

Moruzzi said currently those needing withdrawal management must leave the area, most often for Front Range facilities, which removes them from their support system and community.

“Our hope is to have the resources available for them to stay in the community and have access to their support system while engaging in a recovery pathway,” she said.

Planning has been underway largely through the Region 13 Substance Abuse Regional Coalition and will continue with feedback from community members.

“We are thrilled to be a partner in this effort alongside so many others,” Dave Henson, Chaffee County human services director, said.

“Over 50 public and private organizations signed on in support of this grant proposal across the region. We recognize the power of collaboration and share the goal of making our communities a healthy, thriving place for everyone to live, work and play.”

Construction of the center is expected to begin this summer with a goal of opening by early 2021.

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