Mental health advocates want to hear concerns about the system
DENVER — Andrew Romanoff knows intimately how a family can be blind-sided by the consequences of mental health concerns that go undiagnosed and untreated.
He lost a close cousin to suicide and turned his grief into a passion for changing the way Colorado thinks about, treats and funds mental health.
“It’s a real crisis in our state,” Romanoff said.
He is in the middle of a listening tour across the state, hearing concerns from people in rural and urban cities about mental health.
The Mental Health Colorado nonprofit estimates 1 in 4 Coloradans will experience a mental health issue or substance disorder each year.
The website states Colorado has the fifth highest rate of suicide in the nation, which is said is the leading cause of death for Coloradans ages 10 to 24.
Romanoff said the group has identified three barriers for people in Colorado who may need mental health information or treatment: the cost, the stigma that often comes with mental illness and a lack of services, especially in rural areas.
The consequence, he said, is a large number of people with treatable illnesses who end up behind bars.
“Turning the Department of Corrections into the chief source of treatment for mental illness is the most expensive and least therapeutic choice you could pick,” Romanoff said.
Mental Health Colorado’s listening tour continued Tuesday night in Aurora at the Ecotech Institute on Abilene Street.
The group plans to write a report with recommendations before the end of the year.
There are several self-assessments on their website for parents, children or anyone who wants to learn about their risk or identify areas where they may need help.