Aspen Hope Center proving its worth |

Aspen Hope Center proving its worth

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Carrie Marsh, community outreach and education coordinator for the Aspen Hope Center

ASPEN – If anyone doubted the need for suicide prevention in Aspen a year ago, they probably don’t now.

The Aspen Hope Center, which opened its doors on June 1, 2010, served 607 clients in its first year of operation, providing immediate crisis intervention and acting as a referral agency for mental-health services.

“It says there was definitely a need, and that the word is out that we’re making a difference,” said Carrie Marsh, the center’s community outreach and education coordinator. She had just wrapped up a suicide-prevention training session with a group of local clergy members Thursday morning in Aspen.

In its first year, the Hope Center trained nearly 1,400 people in suicide prevention, teaching community members how to respond to others – be they friends, co-workers, family members or strangers – whom they feel may be contemplating suicide.

About half of the clients who sought out the Hope Center last year were in what was considered a crisis situation, according to Marsh. They received immediate counseling and follow-up care, ideally without leaving the valley.

The other half were so-called referral cases – people who weren’t on the verge of harming themselves, but needed help with a mental-health issue.

“A referral is someone who says, ‘you know, I hate my job, I don’t know what to do, I’m depressed all the time, I need someone to talk to,’ ” Marsh said. The center gives them three referral options to start, and follows up to ensure the individual finds the help they need.

“I think what we really pride ourselves on is getting to know each individual,” Marsh said. “Everyone is unique and so are their issues.”

Calls come from both individuals seeking help themselves and from people who are concerned about someone they know.

Among the crisis cases, the center hasn’t lost anyone who sought help to suicide – that it knows of, Marsh said.

“The opposite question is, ‘Have we saved anyone?’ We don’t know that either. We have had people call us from cliffs,” she said.

Now in its second year, the center isn’t resting on its early successes.

It recently received a $20,073 grant from the Colorado Rural Health Care Grant Program to support training and education for its clinical staff, as well as instruction for more community members who become trainers of the suicide prevention program.

In the fall, the center will launch prevention training in Spanish and intends to begin offering its services in Spanish, as well, Marsh said.

“Every agency you ask – that is a huge gap in our valley and we really want to address it,” she said.

The center has also started two counselor-led support groups – a Women’s Support and Empowerment Group that meets weekly in Carbondale, and a group that assists women suffering post-partum depression, which meets in Basalt. In addition, more efforts are contemplated in the substance-abuse arena, Marsh added.

“This was our first year. I think our second year is going to be more powerful,” she said.

The Aspen Hope Center was founded by the nonprofit Aspen Valley Medical Foundation, which continues to administer the program.

The center maintains an office in the Aspen Business Center and a “Hopeline” (925-5858) that is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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