Mental Illness – another tragic ending

Claudia Ruiz

Claudia Ruiz

Many of us have been following the story of Claudia Ruiz over the last several days. It is one of heartbreak and tragedy. As I write this, a body found near Emma – within a few miles of where Mrs. Ruiz was reportedly last seen exiting a RFTA bus has been identified as that of Mrs. Ruiz.

Being the family member or loved one of missing person, particularly one with a mental illness is a hellish ordeal and this one has ended tragically.

I am sure the family of Mrs. Ruiz has been in agony for the past week — waiting and wondering.   Not knowing is pure torture. You hope and pray for your loved one, but other than talking with the media, posting flyers and waiting for the phone to ring, there is frustratingly little you can do to effect the outcome.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) those with mental illness cannot always communicate their thoughts clearly. Confused, they will retreat. Often, particularly when prescribed medication is not taken as directed, judgement is impaired. Sometimes those with mental illness who leave family and friends become homeless or missing for years, leaving behind loved ones desperate for their return or to know they are safe.

Giant Maze

To many families dealing with a missing loved one with mental illness can feel like being in a giant maze when all potential routes are blocked.   The person can be reported as missing to local authorities. After three days, the family may request that they be placed on the FBI’s National Computer as an “endangered adult.”  However, if found, the police cannot detain an adult who is over 21 who has not committed a crime.  The individual cannot be forced to seek medical care unless they have a guardian or a court order.  Often, after they are contacted and the family given some hope, the individual is gone again.

“. . . by then it’s too late.”

A recent case in New York highlights this problem.  Twenty year-old college student Richard Ghany, left his home in Huguenot, N.Y. April 17.  About a week later he was found in Seattle, Washington.  Apparently he withdrew funds from a joint bank account with his parents, prompting notification from the bank. Ghany has been diagnosed with schizophrenia but is refusing to return home or seek medical help. According to the story which appeared on,  his mother, Lori Ghany states he is not lucid and needs help.  However, until he is a danger to himself or to others, that help will not arrive and as his mother stated  “. . . by then it’s too late.”

HIPAA’s Impact

Another hurdle is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), well known to those of us who have worked in healthcare.  A federal law designed to protect the privacy of individuals, it stands as a roadblock for many families to locating or knowing the condition of their loved one.  HIPPA prevents doctors and hospitals from releasing information unless specific permission is granted or under very narrow special circumstances.

In searching for a missing person, a hospital may not be able to tell the family that the individual is in the facility. According the U.S. Department of Health and Human website, health facilities are permitted to say whether a person is a facility and their general condition.  However, an individual can choose whether they want this information released. Often those with mental illness refuse release of this information leaving family members in the dark.

Defying Logic

Doris Fuller, Executive Director of Treatment Advocacy Center  recounted an incident in a Virginia emergency room in which a physician refused to let Ms. Fuller’s daughter sign the authorization  to release information to Ms. Fuller.  His reason?  Because of Ms Fuller’s daughter’s disordered thinking, and experience as a psychiatric patient she was incapable of releasing the information.  Therefore, the physician was essentially leaving the decisions of what was best for her care up to her mentally ill daughter . . . in her state of disordered thinking.  It simply defy’s logic. Perhaps it is time for a change.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Ruiz family.  No one should have to go through what they have been through.

If you would like to make a donation to the family, an account in Claudia’s name has been set up at Alpine Bank.


Below are some resources within the Roaring Fork valley for those suffering from and/or dealing with mental health issues.

 Aspen Hope Center  970-925-5858

Mind Springs Health  888-207-4004

Roaring Fork NAMI: 970-618-7770, email:

Further Reading:

Post Independent April 3, 2014

Our Town – Glenwood Springs: Conversations About Mental Illness











Ah, Memorial Day!

No Better Place for  Fun!

Ah. Memorial Day! The official start of summer!  There are not many better places to spend a long weekend or summer vacation than Glenwood Springs. Apparently lots of other folks think so too!  I started to notice, particularly Wednesday evening and Thursday, there seem to be more people out, strolling along Grand Avenue, shopping. I watched several generations walk along 6th Street toward the Hot Springs Pool with floatation devices and observed cars turning toward the tram to head up the mountain to Glenwood Adventure Park, where Music on the Mountain starts tonight.

Cabin Fever

I have perhaps a greater appreciation for this time of year in Glenwood than some. Although I have lived in Glenwood Springs for many years, I also remember a time when long winters — the kind that stretch from September through the first part of June — brought bouts of cabin fever, the likes of which could only be cured by a trip to Glenwood Springs.

Leadville Colorado May 23, 2014 courtesy of Colorado Mountain College Web Cam

Leadville Colorado May 23, 2014 courtesy of Colorado Mountain College Web Cam

You see, I was born and raised at 10,200 feet in the mining town of Leadville.  While much of the snow has gone from the town of Leadville now, in spite of a very heavy snow year, the temperatures are still low.  It takes things awhile to green up in Leadville.

So it was on a weekend like this that we would jump in the car and head where the grass was literally greener.  Like so many I see now, we would shop in the stores downtown, stop for ice cream or a hot fudge sundae at the Dairy Kreme, of course spend an afternoon at the pool, and maybe take in a movie at the drive-in . . . yes, I am that old.

It was glorious fun and the best part was that we would do it several more weekends or weeks throughout the summer.


This summer my son and his wife and my two granddaughters are coming “home” from the Dallas area for a couple of weeks. I can’t tell you how excited I am to share Glenwood with them.  The girls are old enough to enjoy some of the very best Glenwood Springs has to offer.  I am a planner by nature and so I am trying to make sure that they will enjoy it all . . . with a little down time in between while I catch up on work.

The last time they were here was at Christmas, so the girls are a little sad that they won’t see snow.

Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Lodge and Pool courtesy

Glenwood Springs Hot Springs Lodge and Pool courtesy

But I send them postcards now and then and the one of the Hot Springs Pool caught their attention. That is at the top of their list.  We will also do Glenwood Adventure Park, get ice cream at Sweet Adventures, let them pick candy at Glenwood Sweets,

Doc Holliday's Headstone at Pioneer/Linwood Cemetery in Glenwood Springs

Doc Holliday’s Headstone at Pioneer/Linwood Cemetery in Glenwood Springs

biking in the canyon, a hike to Hanging Lake, dinner at Glenwood Canyon Brew Pub, a Tuesday evening at the farmers market, hike up to Pioneer/Linwood Cemetery and a visit to Doc Holliday’s grave, probably camping for a night or two.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Photo courtesy

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. Photo courtesy


My sons and I will probably play a round or two of golf at the Glenwood Golf Club.  Of course there will be family BBQ’s and evening walks around the neighborhood.

If you want to come and play in Glenwood Springs this summer there is no better place to start your planning than with the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

 flags-in-memorial-day-2004-photo-012Memorial Day – Lest we not forget

I love Memorial Weekend for the anticipation and promise of summer that it brings.  But while I plan for my summer I will take time to remember the real reason for Memorial Day.  This weekend, take time to remember all the military men and women who served and died so that we can enjoy our families and our summers of hiking, golfing, fishing and playing.  Keep their families in your thoughts and prayers.





Thankful for Glenwood Springs!

I had the opportunity to spend the day in Denver not long ago. Not in the suburbs, but in downtown Denver. I don’t have that opportunity often, but when I do, it makes me so thankful to live in Glenwood!

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy going to Denver on occasion with my family to take in a game, a museum or the zoo.  Two sons used to live in the ‘burbs and I spent much more time in the Denver area at that time. Now my time in the mile-high city is rare – and that is just fine with me.

My occasional visits to Denver and other cities reinforce my love of Glenwood and here is why.


Noemi Kosmowski painting a utility box 4-5-13I love walking down Grand Avenue or going to the grocery store and seeing familiar faces and talking with people I know.

I love shopping in the local stores and being greeted by the owners.  I love that people care enough to stop me on the street to tell me about something going on in the city that bothers them.  I love that the people in Glenwood seem to have a real connection with each other.

People in Glenwood walk down the street looking up . . . at each other, at the mountains at what is going on, People in downtown Denver walk looking at the sidewalk, looking at their smart phone or just looking vacant.  In Glenwood, it seems you see smiles and hear laughter . . . yes even over the traffic noise on Grand Avenue. In Denver there are very few smiles while walking the streets.


800 Block - West side -  of Grand Avenue

800 Block – West side – of Grand Avenue

We have emerged from the dregs of winter — my least favorite time of year — the grey season. It is the time between all the beautiful, white snow and the chartreuse of the emerging leaves on the trees in Spring.

Downtown Denver seems perennially devoid of color. I know that there are beautiful, lush green spots in Denver – the Botanical Gardens for one.  But in Glenwood, the signs of spring morphing into summer are everywhere.

It is in the trees, the tulips and lilacs and even in the storefronts. Here there are evergreens and red mountains providing stunning vistas, even in winter. There is color and vibrancy. In Denver, I was struck by the color grey . . . grey parking lots, steel and glass buildings and concrete.


Glenwood Springs Golf Course

Glenwood Springs Golf Course

Walking out the door to work in the morning I am greeted with the cheerful calls of the robins and the meadowlarks.  I hear the zing of a hummingbird fly by. I walk a block or so from my work in downtown Glenwood and I can sit and watch rafters coming down the river.  In a  few more blocks I can be climbing up a mountain that overlooks Glenwood.  In downtown Denver I am met with the sounds of cars.  Granted, Glenwood has its issues with cars and traffic – but it is nothing compared to downtown Denver.  The area I was visiting had nary a tree. Quite honestly, I didn’t even see a pigeon.


I know I don’t “get” city life.  I am sure I could adjust if I had to – reluctantly. 

Chatting at the corner of 8th and Grand

Chatting at the corner of 8th and Grand

But given a choice, I choose life in the small town of Glenwood Springs.  I know Denver is filled with action and excitement, theater, restaurants and shopping.  Glenwood is as well.  

We have all of that –  everything that Denver has and SO MUCH MORE!  We are connected to this place and to each other.  We are a community. 

Survey: What Attracts Workers & Businesses?

Survey: What Attracts Workers & Businesses?


Place Value: an economic study exploring what attracts workers and businesses to communities in our region.


Community Builders, a project of the Sonoran Institute, is working on an economic study exploring what attracts workers and businesses to communities in our region, to understand how community character relates to local economic prosperity. As a part of this study,  Community Builders invites employers, employees and current students take part in the survey.  Your participation will help us understand what attracts businesses, entrepreneurs and employees to communities like yours, as well as the key factors they consider when relocating to a new location. Thank you in advance for your assistance with this study!


  1. If you are a business-owner or manager, please complete THIS SURVEY. It contains questions about your organization as a whole, and should be completed by you or someone knowledgeable about your organization’s operations and business location decisions.
  2. If you are an employee, please complete THIS SURVEY. If you are an employer, please distribute this survey to all employees with digital access at work. We have provided a link to the survey along with a sample email invitation you can use or adapt below.
  3. If you are currently a student at a college or university, please complete THIS SURVEY.


Each survey takes only 5 minutes to complete, and respondents will be entered in a drawing for a $50 prize.


Community Builders hope is that the findings of this study can inform your community’s planning and economic development efforts, by providing the Chamber, as well as local decision-makers, developers, realtors and other entities with a better understanding of what businesses and people seek in deciding where to locate. We can send you copies of the report and/or present findings in your community if desired. Check in at in summer 2014 to view our final results.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Jennifer Hill at or 970-928-3412, or Alison Berry at or 406-587-7331. Again, thanks very much, in advance, for your participation!



Fun With Budgets

Fun with Budgets! 

For those of you who watch The Big Bang Theory – you may recognize the reference to Sheldon Cooper’s video series “Fun with Flags.”  Perhaps  Glenwood Springs city council and city staff could do a video series on Fun with Budgets.  As I recall, it didn’t go very well for Sheldon Cooper – so perhaps not such a good idea.


Budget? What’s a budget? You say you haven’t really thought about your own personal budget, let alone the Glenwood Springs’ city budget. There is talk about a shortage between what money is coming in and what the expenses that are going out for the general fund.  How much is the general fund short?  What does that mean to me?


Right now, the shortfall in the city’s general fund – the fund that most of the day-to-day operations of  the police, fire, public works (engineering, water, streets/alleys), community development (planning and building) and parks  is almost $900,000. Maybe it IS time to at least glance at the city’s budget.  What follows are questions you might want to ask.


1.  It is literally “your tax dollars at work”


The “revenue” or money the city has to spend comes from several sources including:

  • Property taxes
  • Sales/Use tax
  • Other Taxes
  • Permits and Licenses
  • Intergovernmental
  • Charges for services (fees)
Chart courtesy Glenwood Springs 2014 Budget

Chart courtesy Glenwood Springs 2014 Budget

Many of these come directly from your pocket.  Wouldn’t it be good to know where the money goes?

2. Who is making decisions about how the money is allocated?

  • Are your elected officials making these decisions?
  • Is it city staff?
  • Is it both staff and council?
  • Who is ultimately responsible and accountable?

3.  How are these decisions being made?  

  • Are decisions made based on the long-range goals stated in the Comprehensive Plan — essentially the city’s strategic plan?
  • Are decisions being made based on the current priorities of elected officials?
  • Are budget decisions a consensus between staff and council?

4.  Is there Fiscal Transparency?

All of the above questions plus:

  • How have citizens been involved in the budget process or should they be involved?
  • Where can you find the city’s budget?  (Hint . . .
  • How is information about the city’s financial condition communicated to its citizens?
  • Is it presented in a way that someone who does not have a finance or accounting degree can understand?
  • Sales and use tax is our largest revenue category.  Will it increase or remain flat?
  • Are ongoing costs (usually called operations and maintenance) of large projects being considered?
  • How are revenue forecasts being done?  Who is doing them? How has the track record on these predictions been?

5.  Is efficiency and performance being rewarded under the current system?

  • What incentive do municipal departments have to work efficiently?
  • How are staff encouraged and rewarded for making suggestions on ways to cut costs?
  • Are some departments being underfunded while others are over funded?
  • How are departments being encouraged to coordinate and cooperate?
  • Are all departments working toward the same city-wide goals?
  • Are funds being distributed according to the “highest and best need”, last year’s spending or based on something else?
  • Are non-essential services being funded and if so to what level — and are there other options for funding?
  • Are “sacred cows” funded even though they are not a priority?

6.  Is the budget sustainable? 

  • Will the city be able to sustain the same levels of service for the next 5, 10 or 15 years?
  • Can growth be accommodated?
  • Will there be enough money to take advantage of opportunities that may present themselves?
  • Is bonding for major projects a good idea?

7.  Something’s got to give . . . But what?

Tough decisions are coming.

  • What will those decisions be?
  • What and who will they involve?
  • Who are the final decision makers?

Glenwood Springs has been fortunate over the years to have a weathered recessions with grace. Overall, our elected officials and city staff have been good stewards of our funds. Questions directed to both Michael Harman, Finance Director and Jeff Hecksel, City Manager are answered promptly.  However, now that the city is looking at a shortfall of nearly $900,000 some difficult decisions will need to be made.  It might be worthwhile to pay attention.

Earlier this year I wrote another blog post on the budget:   It gives a bit more information about the 2014 Budget. I urge you to go back and read it.

I plan several posts over the next few months about the budget, the process, the specifics,  and the decisions.  I am no expert but I do have a basic familiarity with budgets and various processes.  It may not be a glamorous subject, but it is an important one. There are many in our community that have excellent financial backgrounds and much experience with these things.  I would welcome guest posts from those individuals to help us gain a better understanding. Guest posts from city staff and city council members are also welcome and encouraged.

Do you have questions or thoughts about the city’s budget?  What do you think should be given priority?   Let me know!  Leave a comment or send me an email at