Editor’s Column: ‘Mental health will drive you mad’

We’re bringing you the latest installment in the “On Edge” series from the Colorado News Collaborative this week. The series — a deep dive into the embarrassing state of mental health care in Colorado — has local impact, and a bit of its roots can be traced to the story we did with Susan Greene in 2019 about the shooting death of Daniel Pierce in Rangely. 

One of the “red flags” in that story was the way MindSprings (the local mental health provider) responded to a call from Sgt. Roy Kinney about Daniel Pierce’s bizarre behavior.

Based on a brief–less than five minutes — phone call, Pierce was deemed “not a threat to himself or others,” and therefore no official action was to be taken. Not long after, Pierce led officers on a slow-speed chase that would end in his death. 

I remember feeling confused and frustrated by the response from MindSprings then. I never anticipated needing to make my own emergency call to the mental health hotline a year later on behalf of a family member in crisis, and subsequently being set adrift to navigate a broken, bloated, ineffective system that doesn’t seem to care. Calling a hotline and being put on hold is agitating to anyone. Being sent home repeatedly without a diagnosis or any plan for care because “you’re not a threat to yourself or others,” and being tasked with making your own appointments, following up on your own medications and prescription refills, and setting up your own treatment program — all while in the midst of a severe mental breakdown — is ridiculous and shameful, and it puts people at risk.

Fellow journalist Susan Greene’s exhaustive research, not just into MindSprings but into the entire mental health care system statewide, reiterates the same kind of horror stories I’ve now witnessed personally. Being on the “inside” of a story like this makes you feel helpless, hopeless, and lost. The system is broken, and it’s going to take awareness and insistence on the part of the general public to change it. 

Why bother, you ask? Well, for one, mental illness is the secret 500-pound gorilla in everyone’s closet. No one is immune, and you don’t know when or where or how that gorilla will decide to make an appearance. Trust me, it won’t be convenient, orderly, or well-planned. For two, there’s good reason to believe a huge chunk of our societal woes could be ameliorated if we had access to better (or any) mental health care from an early age, from domestic violence to homelessness to substance abuse and more. 

So, read it. Think about it. And let’s start demanding real answers.

Have your own story to share about mental health care in Colorado? We want to hear from you.

WHOA, WE’RE (almost) HALFWAY THERE … 

To all of you who have donated toward our #newsCOneeds fundraiser, a heartfelt thank you from all of us here at the HT. We’re almost halfway to our goal, and have until the end of December to get the rest of the way. We appreciate you, and we will continue to work to bring you the news you need in Rio Blanco County.

You can donate at https://bit.ly/3xBWb9K or stop by the office.


By NIKI TURNER – editor@ht1885.com