The executive director of Four Corners Community Behavioral Health believes that someone who receives help in advance will be in much better shape than someone who goes without help for years on end.
It’s always better to have preventive measures in place, she said – even if it takes extra effort to implement them.
Dolan shared that philosophy as she talked about competing legislative proposals to expand Medicaid or private insurance to Utah’s poorest and most vulnerable residents. But she also applied it to the work that her private non-profit organization does for residents throughout Grand, Carbon and Emery counties.
On any given day, Four Corners’ staffers help people with substance abuse problems and chronic mental illnesses get the care they need.
“We’re the safety net,” she said March 3.
According to Dolan, the Four Corners program can trace its philosophical roots back to the final days of former President John F. Kennedy’s administration.
The Community Mental Health Act of 1963 was the last bill that Kennedy signed into law before he was assassinated.
It foresaw a country where previously institutionalized people could return home to be with their families.
Kennedy himself envisioned that the bill would force the “cold mercy of custodial care” to give way to “the open warmth of the community.”
At the national level, at least, things haven’t worked out exactly as JFK hoped they would.
To this day, Dolan said, many states are building more and more prisons to house non-violent offenders.
In many places, the reality is that there just aren’t enough community services available to help those people, she said.
However, many people who are incarcerated aren’t receiving treatment behind bars, and the penal system becomes a revolving door for them, Dolan said.
The situation in Moab is different, though.
According to Dolan, a dramatic shift began about 12 years ago, when non-violent drug offenders were diverted into a drug court program.
Dolan estimates that 80 percent of the people that Four Corners serves have problems with substance abuse.
Drug court gives those people a humane alternative to prison, she said. But it makes economic sense, as well, according to Dolan.
A tracking program allows drug court participants to stay at home and work for a living, while caring for their children.
It also offers them vocational training and job placement services, and participants can stay with the program for up to two years, giving them the chance to turn their lives around.
“We’ve had some really great successes with drug court,” Dolan said.
Along the way, Four Corners has worked closely with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office, 7th District Court and the probation department, among others.
“You have to have this total team effort,” Dolan said.
In the future, Grand County Attorney Andrew Fitzgerald would like to see greater community involvement in the program.
“It would be very helpful for the public to get involved with the people in these programs,” Fitzgerald said. “They’re trying to reintegrate into society … They need to have jobs.”
In addition to drug court services, Four Corners also serves mentally ill residents throughout Grand, Carbon and Emery counties.
Services include clubhouse programs for people who suffer from chronic mental illnesses, along with an assisted living residential program that offers supportive housing for local residents who are mentally ill.
That program – the Willows – will soon be joined by a neighboring project that will bolster housing options for those who are most in need.
On Monday, March 10, Four Corners and its supporters will be breaking ground on a 10-unit independent living facility on Shields Lane.
Aspen Cove Apartments will offer long-term housing for local residents with mental illnesses, including men and women who are currently homeless.
The project is made possible by funding from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, the Olene Walker Housing Loan Fund and matching money from Four Corners.
Grand County Council member Elizabeth Tubbs, who also serves on Four Corners’ governing board, said the project will allow Willows residents the chance to move on to independent living situations.
“It’s a much-needed program in our community,” Tubbs said.
Construction work on the project is expected to wrap up in December, giving mentally ill homeless people a safe place to call home.
“They are so vulnerable, and they so need our protection and our help,” Dolan said.
Anyone who would like to attend the Aspen Cove groundbreaking ceremony is encouraged to show up at 48 Shields Lane by 1 p.m. on March 10. For more information, call Four Corners Community Behavioral Health at: 435-637-7200.