Colorado County Executives Respond to Resignation of Mind Springs Health CEO

Sharon Raggio, CEO and President of Mind Springs Health, has resigned from her post.
Dean Humphrey / Courtesy photo

Mind Springs President and CEO Sharon Raggio stepped down on Tuesday, January 4.

His resignation after 14 years in the post comes after the Colorado News Collaborative and its statewide news partners published an investigative article describing how the nonprofit failed in all 10 counties. of Western Slope for which it is under contract with the State. This story is part of a larger investigation into problems with Colorado’s mental health protection system.

The Mind Springs article detailed how the Grand Junction-based Community Mental Health Center – one of the state’s 17 regional centers – has not been transparent about where and how it is spending children’s money. state and federal taxes.

In an email Tuesday morning, Raggio gave few details on the details of his resignation, but said the search for a new CEO was underway.

“As a result of recent media attention, I believe that my continued presence within the organization may distract from our core mission of providing exceptional mental health and addiction care to the communities we provide. let’s serve, ”Raggio wrote. “I sincerely hope that by making this change now, at the start of the New Year, the organization can move forward in a positive and productive way and fully focus on the important work of saving lives. “

Mind Springs CFO Doug Pattison will lead the organization until the CEO position is permanently filled. The announcement noted that he previously worked as CFO for Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo.

Mind Springs is responsible for providing mental health care to Medicaid recipients and the needy, underinsured and in crisis in Eagle, Garfield, Grand, Jackson, Mesa, Moffat, Pitkin, Rio Blanco, Routt and Summit.

On Tuesday, commissioners from several of those counties called for better mental health resources in their mountain or rural communities, though their experiences with Mind Springs varied widely.

Summit County officials described nightmare scenarios with Mind Springs, which were detailed in the COLab article. Asked about Raggio’s resignation, Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said on Tuesday that “one person did not create this system and one person’s resignation is not going to fix it.”

“The people I know in my community who struggle to access behavioral health services deserve compassionate, immediate and responsive care,” said Pogue.

“What I don’t want to happen is for this conversation to become uniquely (about) the CEO of Mind Springs,” Pogue continued. “I hope all leaders who have a voice in this conversation recognize how much work really remains to be done.”

Pogue is among 51 county commissioners, four directors of social services and a sheriff – Jaime FitzSimons of Summit – from across Colorado who signed a letter to Colorado Governor Jared Polis, asking him to take immediate action to reform the Colorado Mental Health Safety Net System. and more tightly regulate the 17 regional community mental health centers statewide.

The letter specifically asks Polis to appoint a standing group to reform the way centers pay their mental health workers, adding more transparency and accountability to the process. The commissioners who signed also called on the state to hire more than one agency to handle local mental health needs.

“The need for behavioral health care is too great and the programs too diverse for a single entity to cover on its own,” the letter said.

Routt County Commissioner Tim Redmond said he was frustrated when first told of the issues with Mind Springs as taxpayers fund services that people in crisis cannot access for weeks , see more.

“People in this community pay their taxes and these services should be there and available to them,” he said. “If (Mind Springs) can’t provide them to us, then we have to find another way to provide these services to our community. “

Redmond said his biggest concern about the flaws exposed in the COLab article was how long clients in crisis had to wait for care.

“If you are suicidal it may take you 11 days to get an appointment,” Redmond said. “It’s just not acceptable.”

Redmond said that before Raggio resigned, she offered to meet with county commissioners, answer questions and discuss the association’s finances. Now Redmond is wondering if the reunion is still worth the county’s time.

“Where does this money go, what does it support and how do you justify it?” Redmond asked. “The system is down, and the amount of money Colorado spends and what it gets in return is just an embarrassment.”

In Eagle County, officials were so unhappy with Mind Springs’ care that they quietly walked away from the center and created their own in autumn. Summit County is also planning to break away from Mind Springs and join the new Eagle County organization, which is the first new community mental health center established in Colorado in decades. Eagle County has no plans to align its new center with the Colorado Behavioral Healthcare Council, the powerful business group that has long pushed for centers to avoid further scrutiny and tighter regulation of the part of the state.

In Pitkin and Grand counties, however, commissioners said their experiences with local Mind Springs services were mostly positive.

“We are generally very pleased with the state of the art of treatment for mental health and addiction issues in the county,” Pitkin County Commissioner Steve Child said.

Child said the county has revamped its mental health service system and Mind Springs has come to the table with helpful solutions.

“It didn’t happen by magic,” Child said. “It took a lot of hard work for a lot of people to get there, and Mind Springs was one of the partners.”

Still, Child believes Raggio’s resignation will help the organization better serve the region.

“Personally, I liked (Raggio) and I’ll be sad to see her go, but I think it’s a good decision,” Child said. “I hope someone else can resolve these issues which can be quite worrying.”

In Grand County, Commissioner Richard Cimino said local suppliers in Mind Springs had been helpful to his constituents, but he believed the problems were from senior management.

“I thought it was appropriate that (Raggio) tender his resignation,” Cimino said. “I think the organization receives a huge amount of funding from the state and has not been transparent about the use of the funds.”

Cimino highlighted a range of factors he sees contributing to higher rates of depression and suicide in mountain communities in a state that ranks among the worst in the country for rates of mental illness and access to healthcare. mental health care: high housing costs, competitive environments and a lack of publicly funded social service programs.

“When you live in the beautiful mountains, people wonder how hard life can be up there,” Cimino said. “It is kind of difficult to get help from the state and the federal government when we live in beautiful resort communities.”

Moffat and Rio Blanco County Commissioners did not respond to multiple requests for comment on Tuesday, and a Jackson County Commissioner said he could not comment by posting the weather because he wanted more time to familiarize yourself with the problem.

In Mesa County, Commissioner Janet Rowland played down Raggio’s resignation, noting that she was planning to retire in June anyway. Rowland said his county was delighted to have received a state grant of $ 400,000 to address some of the coverage gaps in Mind Springs.

Mind Springs, meanwhile, has hired a Denver-based public relations firm to work alongside Stephanie Keister, its own full-time spokesperson.

In early December, Keister pledged information on Mind Springs spending that she still has not delivered, and questions remain among county commissioners, mental health watchdogs and the media over spending priorities. from an organization that during the biggest mental health crisis in modern history turned people away from care or made them wait up to 11 months for an appointment, COLab found.

Keister said Tuesday evening that no one from the organization was available to talk about the reforms, if any, the organization plans to make under the leadership of a new CEO.

Comments are closed.