Letter: Clearing up inaccuracies in Daily News article | AspenTimes.com

Letter: Clearing up inaccuracies in Daily News article

Clearing up inaccuracies in Daily News article

I wanted to reply to several inaccuracies and misrepresentations made by Carolyn Sackariason at the Aspen Daily News in her articles regarding Aspen Valley Hospital and how we manage "M1" patients, or patients who require a mental-health hold. She implied that most M1 patients are taken to jail and that Aspen Valley Hospital has not been responsive to the needs of M1 patients. That is blatantly false. In fact, AVH manages and holds all M1 patients, except those who are too violent to be in our facility. There have been two occasions of note where my fellow physicians and staff nurses have been assaulted and injured by violent individuals. It is not only our responsibility to protect and provide a safe environment for these patients when we can, but it is also our responsibility that we protect our other patients and our own staff.

Sackariason made reference to lack of a "safe room" or inpatient psychiatric services. A typical safe room in an emergency department is one that can be locked, cleared of any articles that could allow the patient to cause self harm and is usually monitored remotely by closed-circuit camera. At AVH, we place a patient in a bed directly across from our nurse's station, where they are monitored by direct visual contact constantly by staff. They are cared for medically, emotionally and compassionately. In fact, most hospital emergency departments in our state operate just as we do. Most don't have safe rooms and don't have admitting psychiatric services either. This includes large-volume hospitals in Denver. They are in the same predicament as we are: doing their best to deal with very limited statewide resources, providing the most compassionate care possible and assuring the safety of their patients and staff.

Sackariason asserted that the hospital hasn't been leading in this matter. This is another misrepresentation of facts. AVH has partnered with the Hope Center and Mindsprings in an effort to try to keep patients from becoming M1 patients. We now staff a licensed clinical social worker. We initiated and helped finance a two-bed detox facility established in the upper valley that has the ability to hold intoxicated patients who also may be having psychiatric undertones until they are sober and can be re-evaluated by psychiatric clinicians. As part of the Valley Health Alliance, AVH is voicing to our county's largest employers the need for more comprehensive psychiatric services.

This brings me to my final point. While the hospital is an integral component in how this community deals with all of our psychiatric issues, we cannot be the sole solution. It is myopic to think otherwise. This is an issue that needs to be addressed by our elected officials, government and law enforcement agencies, employers, and community as a whole.

Dr. Greg Balko

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