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News brief with The Colorado Sun: improving mental health services and the hunting tag revenue woes

 Pronghorn run along a snow covered county road west of Craig in March 2023.
R. Gonzales
Colorado Parks and Wildlife
Pronghorn run along a county road west of Craig in March 2023. Deep, hard packed snow and high snowdrifts made it difficult for pronghorn find food in their normal range and so they used roads to travel west to forage. Large numbers of the animals were killed when they were struck by trucks. Heavy winter losses in the pronghorn, elk and deer herds in northwest Colorado led state wildlife officials to reduce the number of hunting licenses available in the 2023-24 seasons in certain game units.

Each week, we talk with our colleagues at The Colorado Sun about the stories they're following. This time, we spoke with Health and Environment Reporter Michael Booth about efforts to improve mental health services in Colorado and how Colorado Parks and Wildlife efforts to save wildlife could be bringing unintended economic consequences.

A new 144-bed behavioral health hospital is coming to the Westminster area.

“And that is in addition to the 543 beds that are available across all of Colorado right now, which represents a severe shortage in what we actually need,” Booth told KUNC. “We would actually need thousands more beds than that in order to come up to the recommendations of national organizations.”

Colorado is experiencing severe shortages in almost every aspect of mental health care, but especially for overnight and emergency treatment for adolescents, Booth said. As Lutheran Medical Center closes its campus and moves to a new one, 96 beds will be lost.

“But at the same time, there are quite a few federal and state grants that are going on to local governments,” Booth said, “especially in [Jefferson County]," said Booth. "They're going to be using a $2 million grant for adolescent stabilization. And that's a hugely important area right now, as the teen suicide rate has gone up quite a bit in Colorado.”

In another story, Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s efforts to protect regional animals are having negative effects on the economy in some parts of the state that rely on business from hunters.

“The deep snowpack is great for humans who depend on the water from that snowpack, but not so great for the animals who need to forage during that snowpack and when the ground is covered by ice and snow," said Booth. "And so there were some severe losses throughout the northwest area in antelope, deer and elk populations."

Because Colorado’s wildlife management system relies on hunting and fishing to help manage wildlife populations, thousands fewer licenses will be issued in the coming hunting season.

“And that's a big impact on local economies because someone might travel from out of state and spend $5,000 to $10,000 with an outfitter.”

Managing the number of available hunting tags while maintaining healthy wildlife population levels is a tricky balancing act, Booth said.

As a reporter and host for KUNC, I follow the local stories of the day while also guiding KUNC listeners through NPR's wider-scope coverage. It's an honor and a privilege to help our audience start their day informed and entertained.
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