Guest Commentary: Hope Center encouraged by the future | AspenTimes.com

Guest Commentary: Hope Center encouraged by the future

As we enter into the holiday season, the Aspen Hope Center looks at the community with heartfelt gratitude.

Less than six weeks ago, the Hope Center took its first breath as a fully independent, nonprofit mental-health agency. Standing between excitement and fear, the two of us went to work raising funds. Six weeks and more than $140,000 later, they breathe easier and know the dedicated work in the community will not disappear.

As the Hope Center formed its Tiers of Giving, one individual gave a $25,000 donation to the Tier of Life and another $50,000 to the Tier of Hope. "Their passion and connectedness is so very admirable," the donor said. "We love what we do," said Michelle Muething, Hope Center executive director, "and when you love what you do, it shows in every action."

Aspen Valley Hospital, whose interactions with patients in need of mental-health services have increased significantly in recent years, strongly supports the work of the Hope Center and contributed $37,500 last month to help the agency continue its work.

"AVH provided support in order to preserve key services to patients and the community," said John Sarpa, interim CEO. In addition, the hospital is utilizing the specialized services of the Hope Center to help formulate a social-work program within the hospital to better meet patient needs.

In 31/2 years, the Hope Center has served just over 2,000 community members from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. Nearly 3,000 individuals have been trained in Question-Persuade-Refer, a suicide-prevention program that teaches basic skills to help anyone approach and help someone at risk for potential self-harm. The Virtual Intensive Outpatient Program, a unique and one-of-a-kind program in the valley, has successfully wrapped 66 patients with individualized, 24-hour care. Each person could potentially have been admitted to an inpatient psychiatric hospital, but the Hope Center collaborates with practitioners and other entities in the community and stabilizes individuals in their home, with support from friends and loved ones. Clinicians at the Hope Center are currently providing therapy at a reduced fee and are also providing therapy services for several employee assistance programs, such as Triad and Mines and Associates. Services are being offered in Aspen, Basalt and Carbondale.

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Though numbers are a sure representation of success, if you ask the Hope Center staff about their biggest successes they will tell you it is not in numbers at all. Staff members received a voice-mail message on Christmas Day, 2012. The message said, "I never thought I would see this day with my family, thank you for what you do, for helping me find joy in life again. Merry Christmas." This was from a 46-year-old male who had completed the Hope Center's intensive outpatient program two months earlier. Another message, handwritten on a card by a 28-year-old female, slipped under the front door: "To an agency with a name I will never forget, thank you for giving me hope, thank you for saving my life …"

The Hope Center's staff and newly formed board of directors are committed to keeping the mission strong and working from its core. The mission of the Aspen Hope Center is to extend a beacon of hope to those in emotional crisis and offer a continuum of comprehensive care while steadfastly working to decrease the stigma of mental illness through expert clinical care, public education, community collaboration and outreach.

"When you tell the truth, come from love, and act with integrity, only good can come back to you," said Iglehart. "We are excited about what our future holds."

For more information about Hope Center services, to schedule a Question-Persuade-Refer class or to offer support, contact the Hope Center at 970-925-5858 or P.O. Box 1115 Basalt, CO 81621.

Michelle Muething is executive director of The Hope Center; Sandy Iglehart is its board president.

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