United Way seeks funds for mental health center

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— If you stop and think about just how tightly knit and interdependent the communities of northwest Colorado all are, you'll realize there probably isn't a soul in Routt County that isn't affected, in some way, by all the folks who make donations to Routt County United Way.
Before a drunk driver has another chance to potentially involve a loved one in a fatal or near-fatal accident, for example, United Way and its member agency Steamboat Mental Health Center are doing what they can to make sure that driver, if he or she has a substance abuse problem, can get the rehabilitative and professional help they need.
"If there's someone detoxing from alcohol, and they actually decide to seek treatment rather than continue to struggle with their substance-abuse problem, it's really important to be able to help these people right away, when they're ready." said Tom Gangel, Steamboat Mental Health program director.
Between the time when funding ran short and four months ago, when Sandy Papp was hired as the emergency services coordinator on call for 260 days a year, 24 hours a day, Steamboat Mental Health could offer no guarantee that mental health and substance-abuse emergencies could be handled by a medical professional. Now they can.
The state of Colorado mandates that mental health centers provide on-call services for mental health and substance abuse emergencies but doesn't provide adequate funding to cover the salary of a professional to do so, Gangel said.
Nevertheless, the salary, which is less than $40,000, Gangel said, still does not have complete funding coverage. If the community, which has already impressed Gangel with its generosity, were able to somehow provide a few thousand dollars more, the salary would be covered.
"It's sad," he said. "It's sad that this is as much as we're able to afford to pay someone in such a critical position. And Sandy does such a good job."
What is also unfortunate is that providing for Papp's salary is just one of many services the community needs.
Gangel said that if somehow United Way were able to raise extra monies this year, and some of that extra could make its way to the mental health center, there are already at least two desperately needed services to absorb those funds.
"Unfortunately, we have a lot of indigent people in this community," he said.
Those people, and their children in particular, are in dire need of mental health aid but oftentimes can't afford the $32 minimum Steamboat Mental Health is able to slide down to in order to help people with low incomes.
"With $32, for a single session, we're not even breaking even," Gangel said. "We're just staying afloat."
Seasonal jobs, a high standard of living and moderate- to low-paying jobs are part of the reason there is such a high number of indigent residents who need extra financial help for mental health services.
Children who are in at-risk families can get funding from other organizations, but children whose families are intact but on low budgets can't get help, Gangel said.
Providing these services to these residents and their children is something for which the mental health center is already seeking help from the county, and which come immediately to mind when Gangel thinks about where other United Way dollars could be used.
If more than the already allocated $275,000 is raised during this year's fund-raising campaign, there are special one-time grants available for nonprofit organizations as well as individual residents of Routt County, United Way Executive Director Millie Beall said.
That means if a child without health care needs mental health services, his or her family could apply for a special needs grant through the mental health center if there are surplus funds.
Special needs grants are reviewed three times a year, and the next deadline is Sunday, although United Way will be accepting applications Monday, Beall said.
"It's great," Beall said. "Even when revenues exceed the budgeted amount, the money is still funneled out to the community. In fact it goes out to all nonprofits, even if the organization is not a United Way agency member."

To reach Bonnie Nadzam call 871-4204 or e-mail bnadzam@amigo.net

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