The exterior of the University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, photographed on Oct. 18, 2019. The hospital is the flagship of the UCHealth system. (John Ingold, The Colorado Sun)

This story first appeared in a Colorado Community Media newspaper. Support CCM’s neighborhood news. The Colorado Sun is an owner of CCM.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Kelly Blike described the behavioral health situation for both adolescents and adults in Colorado as a boiling pot of water, filled to the rim.

Now, that pot is spilling over. And there’s no containment in site.

“There has always been a mental health crisis in Colorado, COVID just echoed it,” said Blike, a social worker at the UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital. “The isolation and lack of physical contact has exaggerated a problem that was already in place. We cannot ignore the problem. We have a long way to go.”

As businesses and life appear to be returning to normal from the pandemic, Blike said hospitals are still dealing with the residual effects.

Dr. Ben Usatch, director of emergency medicine at the Highlands Ranch hospital, said the 21-bed emergency room has a handful of patients needing mental health care on any given day. The numbers are not decreasing, and he does not think they will any time soon.

“There is a post-COVID syndrome that we are going to be cleaning up for a long time,” he said.