UCHealth to invest $100M in mental health services over 5 years

AURORA — UCHealth has dedicated more than $100 million over the next five years to support additional behavioral-health services.

Locally, the investment will fund the roll out of a tele-psychiatry pilot program at UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont and UCHealth Broomfield Hospital, the health system announced Wednesday.

In Northern Colorado and the Boulder Valley, UCHealth also operates Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, UCHealth Medical Group in Loveland, UCHealth Greeley Hospital and Greeley Medical Center.

In addition to the $100 million currently budgeted for behavioral-health programs, UCHealth will provide a dollar-for-dollar match of philanthropic donations up to $25 million.

“The funding will expand the services we currently provide” in three key ways, UCHealth CEO Elizabeth Concordia said.

Those services expansions include the tele-psychiatry programs in Longmont and Broomfield, integration of behavioral health care and primary care, and the development of a new behavioral-health unit University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora.

UCHealth’s tele-psychiatry program will offer individualized “virtual health-care visits” with mental-health professionals, Concordia said. This will improve access for patients and efficiency for the care providers.

The pilot program will be rolled out over the next six months. In addition to Longmont and Broomfield, UCHealth will offer tele-psychiatry at Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs and University of Colorado Hospital during the pilot.

The integration process will involve “teams of licensed clinical social workers and psychologists [working] side-by-side with primary physicians in primary-care offices,” Concordia said. This allows UCHealth practitioners to provide immediate outreach and assistance where patients most commonly seek care. 

UCHealth estimates that 380,000 Coloradans don’t receive the mental health care they need.

“We believe these two initiatives will help us care for thousands more behavioral-health patients across the state,” Concordia said. “… We know that our patients have significant behavioral-health needs, and we feel that by addressing these needs early, we will improve our patients’ lives.”

The aim of these programs, which involves the hiring of several dozen mental-health professionals over the next half-decade, is to reach patients before they require inpatient services.  

“UCHealth has been providing behavioral health services in a number of facilities and in collaboration with community partners throughout Northern Colorado for years,” Kevin Unger, CEO of UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies and Poudre Valley Hospital, said in a prepared statement. “This initiative will enable us to dramatically help so many more people within this underserved population.”

To address the needs of patients who do require inpatient services, UCHealth is building a new behavioral-health unit in Aurora that is expected to open in 2023

Neill Epperson, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, praised the hospital system’s board of directors for its “foresight that this could change the mental-health landscape of Colorado.”

Behavioral-health issues “are no different than any other physical health disorder,” she said, adding that it’s incumbent upon Colorado’s health-care providers to help eliminate the stigma associated with mental-health support services.

“Why are we stigmatizing mental health conditions just because they are in the brain? That makes no sense to me,” Epperson said. 

Patients need access to services in a primary-care environment, “not an order to go and see a mental health care provider who might not be able to see them for six to eight weeks,” she said. They don’t need that. They need the right care at the right time.”

AURORA — UCHealth has dedicated more than $100 million over the next five years to support additional behavioral-health services.

Locally, the investment will fund the roll out of a tele-psychiatry pilot program at UCHealth Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont and UCHealth Broomfield Hospital, the health system announced Wednesday.

In Northern Colorado and the Boulder Valley, UCHealth also operates Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, UCHealth Medical Group in Loveland, UCHealth Greeley Hospital and Greeley Medical Center.

In addition to the $100 million currently budgeted for behavioral-health programs, UCHealth will provide a dollar-for-dollar match of philanthropic donations up to $25 million.

“The funding will expand the services we currently provide” in three key ways, UCHealth CEO Elizabeth Concordia said.

Those services expansions include the tele-psychiatry programs in Longmont and Broomfield, integration of behavioral health care and primary care, and the development of a new behavioral-health unit University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora.

UCHealth’s tele-psychiatry program will offer individualized “virtual health-care visits” with mental-health professionals, Concordia said. This will improve access for patients and efficiency for the care providers.

The pilot program will be rolled out over the next six months. In addition to Longmont and Broomfield, UCHealth will offer tele-psychiatry at Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs and University of Colorado Hospital during the pilot.

The integration process will involve “teams of licensed clinical social workers and psychologists [working] side-by-side with primary physicians in primary-care offices,” Concordia said. This allows UCHealth…