BILL WOULD PROVIDE TREATMENT AND HOUSING TO PEOPLE WITH SEVERE MENTAL ILLNESS

By: Noel Brennan, 9News

Under the bill, the Office of Behavioral Health would be tasked to come up with a plan for expanding access to transitional services for individuals experiencing a mental health emergency.

KUSA – Judith Wilson holds onto the memories of her son before the cycle began.

“This is one of my favorites,” Wilson said, flipping through photos of her son, Forrest. “He was born with a full head of auburn hair.”

Forrest is now 23.

“From [the age of] five until now, he’s been dealing with the bipolar and trying to find the right medicines,” Wilson said. “He’ll become delusional and then the mania sets in.”

Wilson said her son has been placed on a 72-hour mental health hold so many times, it’s almost become routine.

“I’ve lost count,” Wilson said. “It’s a dozen or more.”

Under Colorado law, police and health care professionals can place someone on an M1 hold if they appear to be mentally ill and an imminent danger to themselves and others. Wilson said she feels stuck in the M1 hold cycle.

“We’re just M1 hold, [he] comes home for a little bit, does all right, ends up on an M1 hold again.”

Sometimes, Wilson worries her son isn’t ready to come home after the three-day, M1 hold. One facility, she said, offered to drop Forrest off at a homeless shelter if Wilson didn’t want to take him home.

“Which isn’t an option,” Wilson said. “It shouldn’t be that way.”

Wilson supports a new bill that would help people experiencing a mental health emergency get access to treatment and housing.

“Senate Bill 270 would create a transition specialist program to help people who are exiting hospitals or other facilities after mental health emergencies,” explained Andrew Romanoff.

Romanoff is president and CEO of Mental Health Colorado which is backing the proposal that was introduced last Friday with bipartisan support.

“This bill would provide assistance in access to healthcare and housing, residential placement in some cases, supportive services and it would also direct the state to actually get a handle on this population,” Romanoff said.

Under the bill, the Office of Behavioral Health would be tasked to come up with a plan for expanding access to transitional services for individuals experiencing a mental health emergency. Romanoff said more than 35,000 Coloradans could use that kind of help.

“This is not just a statistical crisis. It’s profoundly personal,” Romanoff said. “I lost my closest relative to suicide three years ago in part because of a mental illness that we didn’t detect or diagnosis or treat.”

If the bill passes, $3.5 million would go to the program in its first year. Judith Wilson said she is hopeful it will help her son.

“It would help him with situations if he’s not doing very well and can’t come home, he would have a place to go,” she said. “They would help with housing. They would help with residential treatment.”

Senate Bill 270 will go up for a vote in a Senate committee sometime in the next week.

Originally appeared on 9News.


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