Note pad on a table with numerous descriptive words about mental health next to a cup of coffee

Program delivers help to San Luis Valley residents with behavioral health needs

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Eric Galatas

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(Colorado News Connection) Coloradans struggling with persistent and severe mental illness in the San Luis Valley are getting special outreach and support, and that effort is producing positive results. 

Diamond Mobbley - clinical director of intensive programs with the San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group - said the goal is to create a space for people who have been churning through emergency rooms, detox centers and jails, and bring them out of their isolation. 

"We offer groups at least three days a week," said Mobbley. "So they can consistently come, they get offered a meal, they learn some skills. The more involved we can get someone, the better the outcomes are."

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The group's assertive community treatment program helps clients at very basic levels. They practice simple life skills, such as saying please and thank you, to make it easier to be around others. 

On top of traditional medical and mental health care services, the program helps clients build social bonds through field trips and a host of activities.

The program is among the state's most successful at keeping patients connected and in treatment. 

Mobbly said two clients have now gone over a year without the need for hospitalization, and the program has helped others get off the streets and into permanent housing. 

The work also saves taxpayer dollars by redirecting clients away from costly and ineffective emergency services.

"It's a way to keep long-term clinically, mentally ill clients as safe as possible - and also to keep the community as safe as possible," said Mobbley. "Not utilizing emergency departments, not utilizing law enforcement, not utilizing probation departments and the court system."

The San Luis Valley Behavioral Health Group serves an area bigger than the state of Massachusetts, and has created its own transportation system and mobile care units to help improve access to services. 

But Mobbley said stigma continues to be a barrier. For most people, if they get physically sick, it's absolutely normal to see a doctor.

"There is no stigma about that," said Mobbley. "Like if I have strep throat, I get treated for that, now I feel better. If we think about behavioral help in the same way, 'you know what, I need a little tune up, something's not quite right, I'm having some depression, I'm going to go in and take care of that.'"