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Depressed Over the Holidays? New Crisis Hotline And Services Help Coloradans

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The holidays are not all about celebration; this time of year is tough for people with psychological or addiction problems. But Colorado residents in a crisis related to mental health or substance abuse now have an easier time seeking help: The new Colorado Crisis Services is coordinating various state programs -- so that with one phone call, a person can reach a number of services.

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Colorado Crisis Services, part of Governor John Hickenlooper's plan to improve the state's mental-health service system, is coordinating service providers around the state that address these crisis mental-health services, helping them to work more efficiently. That effort includes this month's launch of fourteen drop-in centers and forty-one mobile units around the state, as well as eight crisis stabilization centers, which are similar to emergency rooms for mental health. Many of these programs were already in place, but now the state wants to make sure they offer similar, consistent services.

The main thread that brings these services together is a hotline that was launched in August. The hotline, 1-844-493-TALK (8255), never closes, and connects people immediately to a trained mental health-service provider who determines what's needed with the caller. The hotline staffer could recommend a nearby walk-in center, connect the caller with the support line to speak with someone who has experienced a similar crisis, or send a mobile unit to address the issue.

The number is run by Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners, formerly the Metro Crisis Services, which as been running a hotline since May 2010. Bev Marquez, the CEO of Rocky Mountain Crisis Partners, says the coordination helps her team make better recommendations. "The services available were pretty fragmented. We had the crisis line, but it wasn't part of a comprehensive system," she adds.

Right now the hotline services about 250 people a day, she says, and she expects that number to increase to 500 as awareness of the program grows. The hotline, walk-in centers and mobile units will not only help people in crisis, but bring some relief to police departments and hospitals that had been getting many of the calls for help.

Seven of the drop-in centers are in metro Denver. Anyone can walk in off the street and ask to speak with someone there; services range from simple conversation to more intensive treatment. There are living rooms for decompressing and some of the centers include beds for one- to five-day stays.

The mobile-services units will send professionals to the location of the problem -- whether it's a home, school or workplace -- to help the person in crisis.

According to a 2011 report by Advancing Colorado's Mental Health Care on Colorado's mental health services, Colorado's national ranking for public sector mental health spending was 32nd in the nation. It also reported that three in ten Coloradans need treatment for mental services each year. See the full report here. Have a tip? Send it to editorial@westword.com.

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