NewsLocal News


Too little money, too few beds: Colorado's mental health crisis

Posted at 7:03 PM, Sep 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-06 21:03:18-04

DENVER -- They say a mother's love knows no bounds.

For Maree, a Colorado mother, those bounds have been tested but her love for her son has never wavered.

"I'm the mother of a schizoaffective son, hospitalization over 18 times in two years," she said.

Her son struggles with a mental illness and substance abuse and asked that we not identify him or use his last name, but she still wanted to tell her story.

"My son is in treatment, and he is trying to get better so for his privacy and respect for him," Maree said.

She said her 27-year-old son was hearing voices and in crisis back in February.

As she tried to find him a bed in a state mental health hospital and the care he desperately needed, Maree said they were sent from emergency room to emergency room from one 72-hour hold to the next.

"There were no hospitals from Pueblo to Fort Collins that could take him," she said.

"We know that there's been an increasing number of beds falling off," said Dr. Charles Park, a psychiatrist who has treated her son for the last five years.

Several months later, and after a long battle. Maree said she was finally able to get her son a bed at Fort Logan. One of Colorado's two state mental health institutes, but only for 30 days.

Once that time was up, she said she couldn't find a single transitional or supportive housing option for her son in Colorado.

"We had no choice here, and we were forced to send him out of state," Maree said.

Her son is now getting the help he needs in Connecticut.

"We have months of wait lists," said Dr. Park. "Now there's so few beds there, in essence, being left in the waiting room."

"It's fair to say that we're in crisis here," said Andrew Romanoff Executive Director and President of Mental Health Colorado.

Romanoff said Maree's story is all too common.

"No parent in this state should have to fight this hard or pay so much or travel so far just to get a child the care that he or she needs," he said.

For Maree, she wants her story and her struggle to serve as a wakeup call for what she calls a broken system.

"I'm talking to save lives, I'm talking before anything had happened to my son which I knew we were right there," she said. "How critical it is that a big difference is made and that a big difference is made in the system soon."