Business of Week – Southeast Mental Health Services


The old building at 3500 1st Street South will be used for Partnership for Progress’ addiction treatment services

You help your community thrive when you shop locally!

Be sure to read The Prowers Journal each week when the Lamar Chamber of Commerce and The Prowers Journal highlight a featured Business of the Week.

This week we are proud to spotlight Southeast Mental Health Services.
For more information call: 800-603-7501.

Southeast Mental Health Services employs 75 individuals and has been serving the residents of southeastern Colorado for more than 50 years. SEMHS is proud to be featured as the “Business of the Week.”

SEMHS provides comprehensive, outpatient mental health services to individuals with Medicaid, Medicare, Colorado Indigent Care Program (CICP) and Children’s Health Plan (CHP+). Services are available to the residents of Baca, Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Otero and Prowers Counties, with offices in La Junta, Lamar, Ordway, Rocky Ford, Las Animas, Eads and Springfield. Emergency Services are available throughout the six counties 24 hours a day, seven days a week. SEMHS is primarily funded by Medicaid capitation, State Block Grant funds and the State General Fund. No one is refused services based on the ability to pay.

Jade Japhet and Kathy Kelley, Lamar Receptionists

SEMHS is known for positioning itself on the cutting edge of service delivery nationally. In 2005, SEMHS began integrating mental health services with primary care services at the High Plains Community Health Center, and was a founding member of the Lamar High School “Whell” Clinic. Coinciding with the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2010, SEMHS competed for the “Advancing Care Together” program sponsored by the Colorado Health Foundation and won a three-year grant to create a system of care for the whole person in Prowers County. This REACT grant (Rural Excellence in Advancing Care Together) allowed SEMHS to place a full-time substance abuse counselor in the High Plains Clinic along with the full-time mental health counselor that had been there since 2005. Two new initiatives have taken place in 2012, the “Total Integration, Patient Navigation and Provider Training” program, or TIPPING POINT, and construction of a new facility for the community of Lamar.

Southeast Mental Health Services was founded in 1957 and began doing business in Prowers County in 1965. The nonprofit was initially established as the Otero County Mental Health Clinic, and later changed its name to Southeastern Colorado Family Guidance and Mental Health Center, Inc. During a rebranding effort in 2001, the name was changed again to Southeast Mental Health Services. Social worker Bill Chastain was the founder and first Executive Director, leading the organization for over 40 years. Bob Whaley served as CEO/Executive Director from 1998-2011. Becky N. Otteman is the current CEO/Executive Director. A 15-member local board of directors provides leadership and oversight for the nonprofit organization.

Dr. David Torres , MD and Paul Taylor, FNP, provide medical care at the Lamar SEMHS facility.

Founded as a community mental health center, SEMHS’ core philosophy is based on recovery, empowerment and self-directed care. In 2002, SEMHS’ efforts to promote Recovery were recognized by Eli Lilly’s Lilly Reintegration Award, winning Second Place in Clinical Medicine. It was recognized again in 2003 by The American Psychiatric Association’s Psychiatric Services Award (Silver). On November 20, 2003, SEMHS was recognized and proclaimed by Rep. Scott McInnis on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2004, SEMHS was the subject of the Policy Paper awarded First Place by the Timothy J. Coakley Leadership Award. In 2010, Partnership for Progress, SEMHS’ substance abuse treatment division, was named “Exceptional Rural Program” by the 2010 Harold E. Hughes Awards of Excellence, National Rural Alcohol and Drug Abuse Network, Inc. and Bob Whaley was named “2010 Behavioral Healthcare Champion” by the industry journal, Behavioral Healthcare.

Health care navigation is among the newest occupations in healthcare. “Health Navigators” assist individuals with serious and on-going health problems to coordinate care between a myriad of primary, specialty and behavioral healthcare providers. In June 2012, Southeast Mental Health Services received a $1.4 million award from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Innovation to coordinate comprehensive, community-based care for high-risk, high-cost, and chronically ill residents of rural Prowers County, Colorado. The TIPPING POINT program will train and employ navigators to increase patients’ access to primary and behavioral care, preventive care, and early intervention services, offering team-based education and coaching to improve both population health and self-management of disease.

In July 2012, Southeast Mental Health Services will take occupancy of a new mental health facility that is being built at 100 Kendall Drive on the healthcare campus in Lamar. The new 4,300 square foot single-story facility includes a reception area, eight counseling offices, a group room, a conference room, two restrooms, a storage room, a telecommunications room, a mail and copy center and a break room. Proximity to the local hospital, community health clinic and assisted living facility will increase access to care by reducing stigma and integrating mental health services into mainstream health care. The public is invited to a Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony and Open House scheduled for Tuesday, August 7th from 2:00 to 5:00 PM.

To schedule an appointment for mental health counseling, please call 336-7501 or 1-800-603-7501. Electronic inquiries and referrals may be submitted through the website at


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