4 Years Ago, Colorado Set Up a Mental Health Crisis System. It Is About to Transform.

November 16, 2018

By Jennifer Brown

Most people who walk in the door of a small, brick building labeled “24/7 Crisis Center” are depressed, suicidal, or experiencing audio or visual hallucinations. Others are young adults going through the first breakup of their lives, feeling so distraught they want to talk to a therapist.

Every crisis is “self-defined,” and Colorado’s 12 walk-in centers have had almost 68,000 visits since they opened four years ago.

The centers — along with a statewide crisis hotline, mobile crisis teams and five-day stabilization clinics — were created in response to the 2012 Aurora theater shooting, a mass murder committed by a University of Colorado graduate student whose attorneys said was “in the throes of a psychotic episode.”

Now, four years after Colorado’s $33 million mental health crisis system was set up, it will undergo radical change.

State officials, who are seeking new contractors to oversee the system, say an overhaul is needed to improve mobile-crisis response, incorporate local mental health services that already exist and, more broadly, put separate people in charge of financial and clinical decisions.

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