Solvista Health got sweet news for Valentine’s Day, announcing on Friday, Feb. 14 that it has been awarded a $700,000 grant toward construction of a  Regional Assessment Center for substance use treatment in Chaffee County.

“A 13,000 square mile doughnut hole, smack dab across the middle of our state,” is how Brian Turner, CEO of Solvista Health, describes the gap in appropriate behavioral health services for a massive swath of Colorado.

“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,” says Turner. “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.”

Solvista Health is in the planning stages to move its Salida clinic to the HRRMC campus. The new Regional Assessment center would also be located at the HRRMC campus. Courtesy photo.

The grant award was made possible through passage of Colorado House Bill 19-1287 during the last legislative session at the Colorado State Capitol. This legislation was specifically targeted at rural and frontier communities for substance use treatment. The bill was crafted by the Opioid and Substance Use Disorder Interim Committee of the Colorado legislature. It had rare, broad bipartisan support, including passing the State Senate by unanimous vote.

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

The grant is seen as a major win for this region of rural Colorado. The significance of the award amount will go further than the $700,000 award; a springboard for Solvista Health’s $6.5 million goal to build an urgently-needed Regional Assessment Center. The facility will be located on the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center campus in Salida.

The center will serve a five-county area including Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Lake, Park, and surrounding counties. It will be located on the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center campus in Salida and is an example of the growing collaboration between the two nonprofit organizations.

The cooperation won’t stop with the construction of a center. Turner says that planning is underway, largely through the Region 13 Substance Abuse Regional Coalition (SARC) and with increased engagement and feedback from community members.

The award was made by AspenPointe Managed Services Organization (MSO) and the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health, who are championing an infusion of resources to tackle the opioid epidemic and substance abuse statewide. The grant will specifically support the 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,” said Turner. “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.”

The collaboration behind support for the Regional Assessment Center is extensive, including Public Health Departments and the Department of Human Services offices across the five-county region.

“We are thrilled to be a partner in this effort alongside so many others,” said Dave Henson, Executive Director for Chaffee County Department of Human Services. “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.”

The fundraising to reach the $6.5 million goal continues. Construction is expected to begin this summer with a goal of opening by early 2021. Tax deductible contributions can be made by contacting gwenf@solvistahealth.org.