Access To Mental Health Care in Rural Colorado

Interview conducted and written by Alex Andrews and Kristin Reichert

The holidays can be a stressful time for some, but this holiday season is coming with its own unique set of challenges. Living through a pandemic means a lot of self-sacrifices when it comes to the quality time spent with friends and family, which may increase feelings of isolation, anxiety, and even depression.  

The rate of Coloradans experiencing poor mental health keeps increasing, as does the rate of people not receiving mental health care. According to the 2019 Colorado Health Access Survey, cost and health coverage were the two largest barriers for Colorado adults who did not seek out mental health services.  

One organization in the Lower Arkansas Valley lowering barriers to care is the Southeast Health Group. We spoke with Kristin Bickel, the Director of Special Populations at Southeast Health Group, to learn more about how they’re supporting older adults through this unprecedented time.  

After working in long-term care facilities for 12 years and seeing the mental health aspect for people in long-term care facilities and assisted living, Kristin took the leap to support seniors in a different way.  She has worked for Southeast Health Group for 12 years and has been a therapist for five of those years. 

“Before the pandemic, I was driving to people’s homes to support them. They had so many barriers getting to me, so meeting them where they live was really the best option,” said Kristin.  Southeast Health Group is now doing remote therapy sessions with folks in long-term care facilities and has provided much of the technology to ensure access, she noted. 

While they offer a variety of mental health services for all ages, about half of the people Kristin serves are over the age of 55. So, we asked Kristin if there was therapy or technique that she finds works best for her clients: “Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) seems to be the best approach for my clients that are 55 or older.  This is very focused on helping accept what has happened in their life up to that point. It helps my clients curb their depression and anxiety and gives them the coping techniques they need.” 

Since the pandemic started, Kristin hears from many who are “even more frustrated and depressed with all the things they are not allowed to do and places they are not allowed to go.” She explains that her new challenge is getting creative with activities her patients can do on their own and reminds them of ways to continue receiving support. “With our entire team of staff at Southeast Health Group and staff at the Long-term care facilities, we are here to boost up the seniors in our communities and help them thrive.”  

These services won’t break the bank either. Southeast Health Group is proud to serve all patients regardless of their ability to pay. They offer a discounted fee program (sliding scale) and accept Medicaid, Medicare, and most private health insurance. With several locations in surrounding counties, all patients are offered an intake appointment within 7 business days. Learn more about how to contact Southeast Health Group.