First Episode Psychosis (FEP, recently rebranded in Colorado as Ascent Colorado) is a supportive program for youth and their families. Established in July 2019, the program offers mental healthcare for teens and young adults ages 15 to 29.

FEP is for young people who have experienced the beginning of psychosis in the last 24 months. The supportive, wraparound program was developed for youth who would otherwise be less than successful in traditional outpatient programming due to severe and persistent mental illness.

According to the World Health Organization, schizophrenia is in the top 10 reasons for disability worldwide. “Early detection, prevention and intervention programs like FEP attempt to help individuals reduce the impact and duration of disability of this debilitating disorder,” said Eli Cover, Clinical Supervisor for Axis Health System. “FEP provides an opportunity for individuals to strive toward independence.”

FEP utilizes a recovery-oriented treatment model called Coordinated Specialty Care for individuals having difficulty managing symptoms of psychosis. “This team approach promotes shared decision making and family engagement,” said Cover. “It uses a team of specialists who work with the client to create a personal treatment plan.”

Psychosis affects 3 in 100 people, and usually occurs for the first time between the ages of 15 and 30. It’s a broad term that covers many different symptoms and experiences. Here’s what to watch for:

  • Hearing or seeing things that others do not
  • Having thoughts or beliefs that appear as strange
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Feeling fearful or suspicious of others
  • Disorganized speech and erratic behavior

The program’s goal is stability

The goal of FEP is to effectively stabilize and reduce symptoms through early, intensive intervention. This includes helping people go back to or stay in school, secure and maintain employment, live independently and develop and maintain relationships. The program offers services for two to three years, based on needs and preferences.

Services are varied to meet needs

  • Individual therapy
  • Employment and education support and guidance
  • Life and social skills building
  • Coping skills
  • Symptom management
  • Medication management
  • Case management
  • Group therapy
  • Family education and support (monthly parent/caregiver groups)
  • Peer specialist support
  • Community and in-home services
  • Healthcare education
  • Patient outings

Eligibility requirements 

  • Must be 15-29 years old
  • Symptoms need to be present for at least 1 week, but within the past 2 years
  • Must live in Southwest Colorado (La Plata, Archuleta, San Juan, Montezuma or Dolores county)
  • Must be open and willing to voluntarily engage in services
  • Medical providers must rule out any physical concerns, such as a traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Cost, location and access

If you are concerned about a youth who appears to be struggling with mental health, please call to schedule a screening, which will help determine if the youth is at risk or is currently developing psychosis. if FEP is not the recommended treatment, Axis Health System’s staff will help families and youth connect to services that best fit their needs.

FEP services are open to people with private insurance, Medicaid or no insurance. We offer a sliding-fee scale for those who qualify. Services are based at Columbine Behavioral Healthcare in Durango. However, our team can meet with patients across Southwest Colorado. To learn more or schedule an assessment, call 970.259.2162.

Crisis resources

If a young person you know is in crisis, please call the Axis 24/7 Care Line: 24/7 local response to your crisis and behavioral health needs. Call 970.247.5245. For more information about our crisis services, visit our Crisis Care page. Additionally, visit Colorado Crisis Services.