A new regional center for mental health and addiction recovery is being built in Salida to help fill behavioral health gaps in south central Colorado. The site, which will be located at the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center campus, is being led by Solvista Health.
Tammy Moruzzi, Chief Nursing Officer at Solvista Health and lead on the Regional Assessment Center (RAC), has worked as a nurse since she was 18. She said this treatment center will help improve public health in the region.
"We've seen increased deaths from overdose," Moruzzi said. "We've had increased emergency room visits for prescription substance use issues like opiates, and definitely alcohol use disorder. The idea behind the RAC is that we can provide people in our community what they need in our community."
The RAC will expand behavioral health services to Chaffee, Custer, Fremont, Lake, Park and surrounding counties, like Saguache and Gunnison. Moruzzi said she and others often refer to the region as "a doughnut hole," where there are 13,000 square miles that don't have access to a facility within 100 miles.
Death due to overdose has also increased in Colorado over the past few decades. According to the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health, the state's opioid overdose rate grew 179 percent between 2001 and 2015.
If you are in crisis or are looking for mental health services for you or someone you know, call the Colorado Crisis Services hotline. Call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 to speak with a trained counselor or professional. Counselors are also available at walk-in locations or online to chat between 4 p.m. and 12 a.m.
A 2017 report from the Colorado Health Institute stated that 31 out of the state's 64 counties don't have a treatment location. Ten of those counties, including Custer, have no treatment locations as well as higher-than-average drug overdose death rates.
"We're in rural and frontier America, and we have limited resources for health care at times," Moruzzi said. "One of the things we know is that if people can get support in their own community, they're more likely to be successful."
The new center will mean that people won't have to transfer hundreds of miles away to Colorado Springs or Grand Junction for treatment, Moruzzi said. Services will include short-term substance use and mental health treatment, withdrawal support, and respite care, which is a temporary support for caregivers of people who have disabilities or are sick.
"It's my passion," said Moruzzi of the new site. "I'm 100 percent committed to the services that we could provide."
Construction began earlier this month, and is slated to be completed in March 2022.
Solvista Health received a $700,000 grant from the state in February 2020 to start the construction, and the organization is planning to raise an additional $6.5 million for the completion of the site.