Members of our Community Editorial Board, a group of community residents who are engaged and passionate about local issues, answer the following question: The Boulder County Planning Commission voted to recommend turning the Alps Boulder Canyon Inn into a residential facility for adolescents with mild illness to moderate mental health symptoms. Your opinion?
According to multiple reports, adolescent mental health is in crisis. My own research has shown that there is a shortage of youth mental health providers in the area. Therapists have long waiting lists and many do not take insurance, putting therapy beyond the reach of many families whose children may struggle. Sandstone Care, the company that has applied for a special use permit to transform the Alps Inn into an inpatient treatment center for teenagers, accepts most insurances, though not Medicaid or Medicare, according to the company’s website (sandstonecare.com/admissions) . Sandstone Care already operates a rehab center and therapy center in Broomfield, so the Alps Inn transformation wouldn’t be the company’s first foray into the Boulder area.
Is this a good use of the Alps Inn? For families whose teens may receive life-changing care, yes. For therapists, administrators, cooks and other employees who will have steady employment, yes.
Still, concerns from neighbors that runaway teenagers might trespass — or worse — are valid. Before approving this use of the facility, Boulder County must ensure that Sandstone Care has adequate insurance as well as contingency and communications plans so that when the worst happens, there is a clear and immediate notification and response system. . My cursory research suggests that Sandstone Care is a widespread, profitable business, which can present both good and bad for the operation. On the one hand, the company has the resources to ensure compliance, adequate staffing and security. On the other hand, large corporations are not always known for taking local concerns so seriously. I understand why the Alps Inn neighbors are scared; I would be too.
But if not a mental health treatment center, then what will the Alps Inn be in its next iteration? Now, the owners are on record as saying it’s not viable as a bed and breakfast. According to Zillow, it was first listed for sale in 2014 (asking price: $6.2 million). More listings followed: 2015 (asking price: $5.75 million), 2017 (asking price: $5.395 million), 2017 again (asking price: $4.995 million), 2019 (asking price: $4.469 million), 2022 (asking price: $4.469 million), and is currently under contract/accepting reserve offers. Sandstone Care – or whoever is under contract for the property – clearly sees a profitable business opportunity in establishing a mental health facility on this beautiful property. Now, it’s up to county commissioners to make sure said business is also a good neighbor.
Rachel Walker, firstname.lastname@example.org
About 30 miles east of New York City is one of the most beautiful and iconic scientific sites in the world, the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. I was lucky enough to take some summer courses there in the neurobiology of fruit flies (yes, that’s a real thing) and learn from some of the world’s leading geneticists.
But this beauty masks a terrible reality of the past: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is also the site of the infamous Eugenics Record Office (ERO), which tried to use science and politics to “cleanse” the human race of racial, social deficiencies and mental. in the early to mid-twentieth century. The German demonstration of where those beliefs lead ended mercifully the ERO in this country. But some of his ideas persist in insidious ways, particularly in defining the “other” as somehow undesirable.
Eugenics tried to remove otherness by changing it to be better, ie. “more like us”, to the point of sterilizing other people (or killing them, according to the German model) who did not fit the desired model. The world at large condemns these things now, although sometimes I hear things on certain cable news channels that skirt the edge of old-fashioned eugenics in the most disgusting way.
Another way to try to overcome the anxiety of others is through physical removal of the fearful other (“out of sight, out of mind”). This is the animating goal behind social NIMBYism, and it generally elicits less strong reactions. But it is almost as destructive in itself, both to its supporters and its targets.
It would be easy to take a cheap shot at Boulder’s NIMBYism and cite this current canyon controversy as just another example. It would also be wrong. There is a more fundamental challenge that we must somehow address, one that goes beyond Boulder but is most painfully felt here. It feels like we’re missing a critical element of kindness and empathy, a sense of gratitude for what we have here, and a generosity of spirit in wanting to share it with others. More than that, even: We lack a basic awareness of the importance of variation in building a strong and authentic community. And that change must encompass the full range of authentic human experience, not just some predetermined positive attributes.
Perhaps we should start by simply being honest about what we do or do not support and – far more importantly – why.
Fintan Steele, email@example.com
The facility is proposed to be built at the old Alps Boulder Inn by Sandstone Care would treat teenagers with mild to moderate mental health symptoms. And there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Boulder County needs access to a facility like this. I personally know parents whose child struggled with mental health symptoms due to severe personal trauma. The boy resorted to buying Xanax on the street, which unbeknownst to him, was laced with Fentanyl. The teenager was found dead, lying in bed listening to music. I wonder if this structure would have given him the tools to deal with his trauma and prevent his death.
At the same time, let’s not forget that this company is not opening this facility out of the kindness of their hearts, but to seek profit. I think it is perfectly justified for the county to require certain guarantees (for the county or neighbors) to grant a permit. For example, at the county hearing, a neighbor mentioned that at the mental institution where his wife works, “clients running away and escaping is almost a daily occurrence.” It is not out of the realm of possibility that in order to reduce costs and increase profits, the facility may be understaffed and the active staff may not be able to handle the escapees. After all, a teenager cannot be held against their will in the facility if they want to leave.
I think the county needs to keep communication open between them, the neighbors and Sandstone Care. Everyone in the group has influence: The company wants to build a facility to increase its profits, the county wants the facility and must secure permits, and neighbors have influence through their voting and organizing. I think this balance of power is good for securing a solution that will benefit all parties. I hope the neighbors and the county are able to clearly outline their public safety requirements and that the facility is able to assuage those concerns. Additionally, I hope a review process is created so that if the facility is in violation of the original agreement, the neighbors and the county will be able to bring those issues up in an expeditious manner so they can be dealt with efficiently. I personally look forward to having a facility like this available to our children in the City of Boulder.
Hernan Villanueva, firstname.lastname@example.org