Three state agencies have launched a joint audit of Mind Springs Health, sending state investigators to the nonprofit mental health agency for 10 Western Slope counties to review documents and financial records.
The organization, one of 17 regional community mental health centers that receive millions of dollars in public funding each year, has been at the forefront of criticism as policymakers look to reform Colorado’s behavioral health safety-net system.
Mind Springs, which serves residents from Summit County to Mesa County, was the subject of a recent Colorado News Collaborative investigation that found local officials — including at the Summit County Jail — were terminating contracts with the mental health center. Were. Public officials and local residents said the center had failed to help those in need in a mental health crisis and that its leadership was not publicly accounting for how it spent tax dollars.
Mental health centers receive public funding primarily from the state Medicaid program to care for those in need covered by Medicaid who are underinsured or lack insurance.
The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, which oversees the Medicaid program, confirmed Mind Springs’ site review, acknowledging that it had referred state investigators to Mind Springs’ offices in western Colorado. Two other state agencies — the Colorado Department of Human Services and the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment — are participating in the audit.
According to a joint statement by the three departments, the review will look for signs of fraud, waste and misuse, as well as adherence to health and safety standards and financial transparency.
Mind Springs public relations director Stephanie Keister said the review “is not an investigation.” Instead, she said the center is “collaborating and working” with three state agencies to “develop opportunities to enhance care” in the community.
“We look forward to this joint process and the results,” she said via email.
According to the statement from the three state departments, the “joint site review” comes after community complaints about Mind Springs reached the state level. State officials said the purpose of the audit is to prepare a list of “opportunities and obligations” to address the mind springs.
Mind Springs has several clinics in its coverage area, including Summit, Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco and Root Counties. It also provides mental health services in prisons and schools, and runs West Springs Hospital in Grand Junction, the only psychiatric hospital on the West Slope.
Mind Springs CEO and President Sharon Raggio had planned to step down in June, but resigned this month following an investigation by the Colorado News Collaborative.
“With the recent negative press, she felt that by resigning too soon she could allow the organization to focus on positive change that would actually help our communities, versus the negative rhetoric surrounding her personally, Keister said.
Following Raggio’s resignation, Doug Pattison, the organization’s chief financial officer, was named interim CEO. In his first week, he is “focusing on transparency” and meeting with local county commissioners and community leaders to provide information on funding sources and services provided by Mind Springs Provides health therapy and addiction counseling.
Colorado’s 17 community mental health centers receive $437 million a year in tax dollars and have recently come under scrutiny from lawmakers and behavioral health officials who have questioned the system’s lack of monitoring. The centres, which now face severe labor shortages, are serving fewer patients than they did before the coronavirus pandemic began, a period in which the demand for mental health services has soared.
In the Mind Springs area, Summit County voters passed a tax measure in 2018 for mental health care and alternatives to mind springs. Since then, the county has terminated three of Mind Springs’ contracts and is working to end its relationship with Mind Springs.
Summit County hopes to join the new community mental health center in Eagle County, called Eagle Valley Behavioral Health. The center was started with a $60 million investment from a local non-profit hospital, Well Health, after local leaders said Mind Springs had failed to keep up with the community’s mental health crisis.
State officials said the findings of the United States Review of Mind Springs would be made public when the review is complete.
Reporter Jennifer Brown can be contacted at [email protected] or 303-589-0175. The investigation is part of an “On Age” series about mental health in Colorado by the Colorado News Collaborative, of which The Denver Post is a member.