Eagle County trims ‘crisis beds’ from health center
EAGLE — Expansion of mental health services is still a key component of a proposed new county facility at Edwards’ Freedom Park, but it doesn’t look like crisis beds — hospitalization options for people who are experiencing a mental health emergency — will be part of the planned structure, although official will not make a decision until next month.
The Eagle County Commissioners on Tuesday reviewed the most recent work regarding the proposed Eagle County Freedom Park Health Center. After initial design and costs analysis for the building, the proposed structure has been scaled back from approximately 40,000 square feet to just over 33,000 square feet. The estimated cost of the entire building is now $14 million. By eliminating the crisis bed option, county officials figure they have cut $13 million from the project’s price tag.
According to Rick Ullom, county facilities director, the cost savings come from two sources. First, if the building covers 33,000 square feet, underground parking won’t be required. Second, the inclusion of crisis beds means the county would have to comply with more stringent building requirements, which would drive up the cost of the structure.
“The need will still be there. Right now there are no plans for crisis beds anywhere in the county,” noted Eagle County Public Health Director Chris Lindley. “But because the cost savings are so great, economically this sounded like a much better investment for the county.”
Lindley noted that if the county can save $13 million by cutting out crisis beds at the Edwards site, they can look at a different site elsewhere for that service. And, he added, by expanding other mental health options at the new multi-use location, the county will presumably lessen the need for crisis intervention.
The proposed site for the Eagle County Freedom Park Health Center is a county-owned empty area located immediately north of the Western Eagle County Metropolitan Recreation District Field House in Edwards. The center, as envisioned, would house a number of programs, including Mountain Family Health Center, county public health offices and the Family Resource Center.
Additionally, the site would include mental health services provided by Mind Springs Health. Last November, Eagle County voters approved a new sales tax on retail marijuana sales to help fund expanded mental health services in the valley. But the voter-approved funding was not earmarked for use on infrastructure, and that is why the county is contemplating its shared-use facility. A capital funding campaign is anticipated for the center.
While they discussed the reduced square footage/reduced cost proposal for the building this week, the commissioners noted they have a meeting slated later this month with potential building partners. Before they make the decision to shrink the plan, the commissioners noted they want to talk with representatives from the other entities about needs and costs.
“This is a not a wish list we are putting together. Someone has to fund it,” said Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney.
As they continue discussions of the building proposal, the county commissioners noted they need to comply with the advice they often give to developers and start talking to neighboring property owners.
Before they can launch construction of the building, the plan will have to go through the county’s planned unit development amendment process. At least one former county resident, former County Commissioner Tom Stone, has protested that the proposal is a “misuse” of the land which was originally earmarked for educational and recreational purposes.
There are many procedural hurdles ahead before the county can proceed with the plan, Ullom noted. Financing, tenant agreements and county review of the plan are the first looming challenges. He figures it will be fall before the county can proceed with a decision about whether or not to move forward with the project. If the answer is yes, then design will commence during the winter, and spring of 2019 would be the earliest possible time for actual ground-breaking.
For now, the commissioners said they plan to continue talking with potential partners and county residents about the plan.
“I haven’t heard any push-back about the proposal,” said Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry. “People are so anxious to get mental health services.”
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