Essential Mental Health Hospital Expansion Opens in December
West Springs Hospital in Grand Junction, the only psychiatric hospital between Denver and Salt Lake City, is doubling its available beds
The growing need for mental health care across the Western Slope of Colorado is evidenced in part by the 8 to 12 people on the daily waiting list for admission into West Springs Hospital.
Thanks to the expansion of West Springs Hospital, scheduled to open in December, the amount of available beds will double from 32 to 64 at the only psychiatric hospital between Denver and Salt Lake City. That means that adults and children seeking care for critical mental health situations or conditions can receive the care when they need it, not days or weeks later.
“Having the capacity to help people at a most imminent risk has been a huge problem,” said Kim Boe, executive vice president at West Springs Hospital. “We no longer anticipate having a waitlist. The shortage of beds has been a constant battle and struggle, not only for us to figure out how to respond as fast as possible, but for the people who can’t get into the hospital when they need care — it puts a burden on their loved ones and a burden on other systems in the community.”
Colorado’s suicide rate increased more than 34 percent between 1999 and 2016, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Boe said the state is responding, though, and has come a long way in terms of the funding it provides for mental health care.
“Mental health is not hiding anymore,” she said. “I think it’s more accepted to reach out for help and seek that help.”
West Springs Treatment
Patients who come to West Springs Hospital have a variety of mental health conditions and concerns. These include suicidal feelings or attempts, psychotic symptoms, depression, extreme anxiety, manic behaviors, delusional thinking and many other conditions.
Upon admission to West Springs, patients are evaluated by a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner who gathers both mental and physical health information. Patients with mental health struggles often also show signs of poor physical health, which is why Boe said it’s so important that West Springs treats the “whole person.”
The average length of stay at West Springs is about seven days. Some patients stay longer, and some can go home after just three or four days. Boe said that in that time frame, the staff can help a patient become well enough to where they can safely go back home and continue to recover in an outpatient setting. They may not be “cured” when they leave the hospital, but they’re no longer at that highest level of risk in which they can’t keep themselves or others safe.
Patients might return for care in the future — sometimes as soon as a couple of weeks after their last discharge — but each patient’s success looks different. What’s important isn’t how many times a patient returns to the hospital, it’s that they’re seeking and receiving the mental health care they need.
The New Hospital
With a new 63,000-square-foot state-of-the-art building directly adjacent to the current hospital, the expansion of care is providing more than just extra beds. A new half-court gymnasium will be a place where patients can release some of their anger or frustrations in acceptable and healthy ways, Boe said.
There will also be a dedicated room for musical therapy and other activities.
“One of the things that I’m excited about is the ability for patients to have more freedom,” said Dr. Frank Lotrich, medical director at West Springs Hospital, referring to the courtyards, gym and other spaces. “I think it really informs the rest of the world that the community takes mental health seriously when they’re willing to invest in this type of building.”
A dedicated child and adolescent unit will allow for more tailored care for those patients, who are increasingly in need of mental health care. Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Some of the theories about that involve social media, Boe said. It’s not new that adolescents experience a lot of bullying, but what is relatively new is that kids aren’t able to escape it when the school day ends.
“It used to be that the bullies went home for the day. Now, with social media, the bullies follow you,” Boe said.
The new hospital will feature multiple activity and recreation courtyards, as well as warm and welcoming rooms and private spaces for treatment. These spaces will allow psychiatrists, nurses, therapists, mental health workers, social workers and case workers to better deliver the personalized treatment for each and every patient.
“This will be a warm, healing, comfortable, home-like environment, with safety at its core,” Boe said.