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Gunnison Valley Health Partners with School District to Provide School-Based Counseling Services

Gunnison Valley Health’s Behavioral Health Department recently entered into a contract with the Gunnison Watershed School District to provide free, school-based counseling services to students at Lake and Gunnison Elementary School and Crested Butte Middle and High Schools. The service launch is a first for the school district and is a major step forward in addressing the behavioral health needs of children and youth in the Gunnison Valley.

Gunnison Valley Health’s Foundation Executive Director and Community Well-Being Liaison, Jenny Birnie, said this partnership is another example of how the community is coming together to address behavioral health in the valley.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the school district to provide support to kids at the schools,” Birnie said. “The pandemic has created extra stressors for all our students and this new service will increase accessibility and improve outcomes, helping them thrive.”

School-based services are funded by the Gunnison Watershed School District and the Gunnison County Substance Abuse Prevention Project. The School District was able to identify the age groups most in need of this critical service and Gunnison Valley Health was able to structure it to be as supportive to students, families and school staff as possible.

Referrals are made through the school’s Mental Health Team and Gunnison Valley Health’s clinicians, Betty Sue Gurk and Evangelyn Willrodt, work with the student and their family to provide services on a schedule that minimizes disruption and ultimately removes barriers to access. Both clinicians are licensed clinical social workers with years of experience working with children and youth.

“By having our providers embedded at the school we are able to offer a streamlined process that is flexible and easy for the student, their family and the school staff,” said Gunnison Valley Health’s Director of Behavioral Health, Kimberly Behounek. “This collaboration between the school, the family and the community will have tangible, positive impacts on the lives of children and youth in the Gunnison Valley.”

Gunnison Valley Health is dedicated to addressing identified behavioral health needs in Gunnison County. The addition of school-based services is one of many components the health system, with the support of numerous community entities, has launched since July.

“We remain committed to providing a full scope of behavioral health services to the community,” Birnie said. “This year we have grown exponentially and added a range of services including mobile crisis, medication assisted treatment and jail-based services. We haven’t done this work alone and are fortunate to have so many people and organizations with whom we collaborate. I am proud of our community and excited about what the future holds for behavioral health services in the valley.”