Mental Health Colorado: Mental health holds in jails have to go
By Jen Marnowski
Special to the Daily Record
One of the biggest mental health issues the Colorado General Assembly will address this session is the placement of individuals on involuntary mental health holds in jails. Current law allows law enforcement to put a person having a mental health crisis in jail, without charges, if they are a danger to themselves or others. Colorado is one of only six states where this practice is still legal.
The bill known as SB17-207 (Senate Bill 207) would stop this practice and improve the system of care set up to help people in crisis.
A hearing was held on the bill on Wednesday. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate Judiciary committee with a 5 to zero vote. Senator Daniel Kagan (D) and Senator John Cooke (R) sponsored the bill.
“To jail someone is only cruel and inhumane … please support this bill,” said Senator Kagan.
The committee listened to dozens of stories from people with mental illness, law enforcement officers, psychiatrists and organizations involved in crafting this bill. All were in agreement that this practice must end.
Jennifer Hill, a mental health advocate from the Denver area, described how she felt when she was jailed during a time of crisis. She’s now in recovery.
“It’s ineffective and it’s traumatizing,” said Hill. “As you consider this bill, think about your neighbors, your family, you wouldn’t want anyone treated this way.”
Law enforcement also testified. Delta County Sheriff Frederick McKee says this issue strains resources in rural areas. In many cases it takes hours to find available care, but even then it can take 3 hours or more to transport a person in crisis to get help.
“Sheriffs never have believed that people in crisis should be in jail, but sometimes there is no alternative,” said McKee. “Increasing walk-in centers and crisis stabilizations units … will help. Delta County and many others need this funding to take this next step.”
The Joint Budget Committee has set aside 7 million dollars to help get the crisis system in place to replace jail use.
The bill now moves on to the Appropriations committee. If it passes in that committee, it then goes to the full Senate for a vote.
Jen Marnowski is the communications director for Mental Health Colorado
See the original article at the Canon City Daily Record.