Gunnison Valley Health has officially launched a new Behavioral Health
Department that will meet the diverse needs of the community by augmenting
services, providing quick access, and integrating behavioral health assessments
into the health system.
Executive Director of the Foundation and Community Well-Being Coordinator,
Jenny Birnie, said that the behavioral health needs of the community continue
to increase and there are not enough providers to meet this need.
“We saw a real need to augment existing services because the community
need continues to surpass what is available,” Birnie said. “There
are great behavioral health providers in Gunnison County, but they all
have full schedules and waitlists for services.”
The Community Health Needs Assessment completed in 2019 clearly identified
the continuing need for more mental health support and services in Gunnison
County. Gunnison Valley Health has seen the number of people entering
the Emergency Department with behavioral health needs increase, but the
number of providers and resources has not kept pace.
Gunnison Valley Health, with support from the Gunnison Valley Health Foundation,
is currently working to build the infrastructure and community partnerships
necessary to integrate behavioral health within the healthcare system.
Birnie started this process by hiring Kimberly Behounek as the Director
of Behavioral Health, who is well known and rooted in the community as
a behavioral health provider.
“I am excited for this opportunity to bring additional services and
influence change in the community,” Behounek said. “Building
on Joe and Barbara’s great efforts as Peer Support Specialists,
our new behavioral health services will fill gaps in existing services
in response to the community health needs assessment.”
Birnie and Behounek are working on developing an infrastructure, of which
building strong partnerships within the community is a major component.
Gunnison Valley Health believes strong, collaborative relationships with
law enforcement, emergency medical services, the Community Health Coalition,
Gunnison County Health and Human Services, and Gunnison County Juvenile
Services, to name a few, are critical to supporting the well-being of
“Our community partnerships will be critical to our success,”
Behounek said. “By working with everyone from law enforcement to
family physicians, we will have the ability to identify and respond to
the needs of the community.”
While the primary focus is on developing a strong infrastructure, Birnie
and Behounek are also working on expanding currently available services.
Peer Support Services at Gunnison Valley Health are now a part of the Behavioral
Health Department. This free resource is expanding through the addition
of two more peer support specialists. Recruitment for a licensed counselor
and a psychiatric nurse practitioner is also underway.