UCHealth to open behavioral health unit at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins

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To address growing mental health and substance abuse struggles in Northern Colorado, UCHealth announced a new behavioral health unit at Poudre Valley Hospital set to open in 2024. 

Currently, UCHealth’s Northern Colorado behavioral health services operate out of Mountain Crest Behavioral Health Center in Fort Collins, but Vice President of Behavioral Health Elicia Bunch is hopeful that in moving services to PVH, the system will provide more integrated care and reach more patients. 

“The Poudre Valley Hospital vision and the UCHealth investment really allows us to provide an enhanced state-of-the-art care in a therapeutic, updated care setting and also will enhance the professional work environment for our really committed and passionate behavioral health staff,” Bunch said. 

UCHealth has not yet determined whether Mountain Crest will continue operating at its Harmony Road location after the expansion to Poudre Valley Hospital. 

Behavioral health issues are “highly prevalent” in medical settings, she said, so being able to serve patients who come to Poudre Valley Hospital for behavioral care on site rather than having to transport them to Mountain Crest will be an added benefit of the new unit. 

Bunch also said the location of Poudre Valley Hospital will help UCHealth integrate behavioral health care into common care. 

“We want to integrate behavioral health in medical care settings to ensure that we really are treating the whole person, and we feel like this integrated care approach really allows us to reduce stigma and normalize access to care,” she said. 

The project, which is estimated to cost nearly $47 million, according to UCHealth spokesperson Kelly Tracer, is part of UCHealth’s 2019 commitment to addressing mental health needs across the state. 

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Mental and behavioral health have become priorities in recent years as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased reports of depression and anxiety in people across all ages.

Prior to the pandemic, Bunch estimated that about one-fifth of patients experienced a behavioral health issue; now, some estimates show as many as three times the number of patients present with anxiety and depression disorders and challenges.

“It’s really critical — given the need for access to care — that we’re positioned to support the behavioral health needs in the community,” Bunch said. Annually, she said, Mountain Crest has 20,000 outpatient visits and admits 2,000 people for inpatient care.

In the new unit, the number of available beds will increase 22% — including more private rooms — from current capacity; Mountain Crest has 41 beds, while the new facility will have capacity for 50. There will also be designated settings for outpatient behavioral health visits and small-group meetings, along with a new space that will “be renovated to offer electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), transcranial magnetic stimulation and other new and innovative services,” according to UCHealth’s press release. Currently,  

Both inpatient and outpatient services will be offered at Poudre Valley Hospital. 

The renovation will also include an update of the orthopedic, neuro and spine units to create a “state-of-the-art care environment” on the fifth floor of the hospital. 

“This is an incredible opportunity to create an environment that is comfortable for our patients, whether they are needing inpatient care or outpatient services, so they will get the care they need,” said UCHealth North ReCEO Kevin Unger in the release. 

Until the project is complete, Mountain Crest will keep operating and offering services. Bunch said UCHealth is still evaluating what to do with the facility once operations are moved to Poudre Valley Hospital.  

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Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said Mountain Crest has 20,000 out-patients a year. It has been updated to reflect that Mountain Crest has 20,000 out-patient visits annually, but does not serve 20,000 unique visitors. 

Molly Bohannon covers education for the Coloradoan. Follow her on Twitter @molboha or contact her at mbohannon@coloradoan.com. Support her work and that of other Coloradoan journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.