CANON CITY — Mental health issues in Colorado are on the rise, especially in rural areas.
The good news - there's a new partnership that aims to address the shortage of mental health providers in those communities.
Family Nurse Practitioner Alicia Kielas said, "I think the need is just so large. We just don't have enough places."
It's a problem that isn't going away. Kielas, who works at Button Family Practice in Canon City, said, "Often times we refer out and timely, effective care can take a while to get patients those referrals or get them into mental health providers...patients want to really just come into primary care and get that treatment here, and when you have to send them out and it takes times that often can be a barrier to that care...I just know with the pandemic things are increasing."
Meeting the increasing demand - it could be found in a new partnership between the United Health Foundation and the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence. A $1.5 million grant from the Foundation will allow the Center to support 39 nurse practitioners like Kielas to receive their psychiatric mental health credentials.
Kielas said, "The Psych NP will expand my knowledge and scope and ability to provide an expanded scope and medication management for more serious mental illness."
Basically, instead of referring patients somewhere else, Kielas will be able to provide physical and mental health services right at the clinic. She'll be able to prescribe medication and counsel people, making it a one-stop-shop for patients.
Kielas said, "I believe that mental health is just in line with physical health so why shouldn't we be doing that?"
The United Health Foundation says once certified nurse practitioners will commit to providing behavioral health care services for at least two years in rural areas and support an estimated 3,000 to 12,000 rural Colorado patients each year.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, we have resources below that could help.
Colorado Crisis Services: https://coloradocrisisservices.org/ You can also call the Colorado Crisis Services hotline at 1-844-493-8255, or text "TALK" 38255.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.
Parkview Behavioral Health: https://www.parkviewmc.com/care-treatment/behavioral-health/