What counties do you represent? If this is a statewide office, please put statewide.
North Adams and South Weld
Have you or someone you loved ever experienced a mental health and/or substance use condition?
Question #1: Colorado, like the rest of the nation, is facing a youth mental health crisis. Do you support school policies and funding that increase the availability of mental health services and supports in schools and early childhood settings?
Would you like to explain your response to question #1?
The resources MUST actually get to the end user. As a former police officer with years of experience working in the schools, I’ve seen the disconnect between resources that theoretically exist, but were never available to my students when they were needed. The resources must also empower parents to be active participants in the process.
Question #2: Do you believe mental health and substance use are serious issues your constituents are experiencing that deserve legislative attention and action? Please explain.
Absolutely. As a former police officer, I was the one who responded to suicides, overdoses, people in crisis, and every other mental health and substance abuse issue that exists in our communities. These are real issues that need real solutions.
Question #3: Extreme risk protection orders, also known as red flag laws, allow law enforcement to temporarily remove weapons from individuals at significant risk to themselves or others. Colorado has a red flag law. Do you support extreme risk protection orders?
Would you like to explain your response to question #3?
As a former police officer, I know from personal experience that when someone is in crisis, the least helpful thing anyone can do is force a confrontation. Stories abound of officers who tried to contact an armed person in crisis, only to end up hurting or killing that person in their effort to “save” them. Red flag laws force unnecessary confrontations. They also erode community trust since the subject of the order often doesn’t know they’ve been accused until law enforcement arrives and declares such a person guilty until they prove themselves innocent. This one-sided nature also makes red flag laws ripe for abuse by vindictive current and ex-domestic partners (I’ve seen every messy domestic violence situation you can imagine).
Question #4: Overdose deaths are at an all-time high nationally and in Colorado. Many believe increasing criminal penalties for people who use drugs is the answer. Do you support increased criminal penalties for people who use drugs? *
(*Please note that we are asking about personal use, not distribution)
Would you like to explain your response to question #4?
Realistically, penalties for personal drug use in Colorado are so low as to be non-existent (that’s based on observing the criminal justice system for the last ten years). It is true that most of these users are in dire need of help. However, without any motivation to “get clean,” they often are dragged further down the road of addiction. I don’t want to ruin a generally good person’s life with a criminal record; however, I also know that people suffering from substance abuse almost always need external motivation in order to beat their addiction. I support mental health courts in which criminal charges for personal use can be expunged in exchange for successful completion of substance abuse recovery programs. Finally, even though drug users may be wonderful people when they are sober, when they are intoxicated, they are unpredictable and often dangerous. I’ve personally stood between a drug impaired man (armed with a knife) and innocent kids on a playground. I’ve delivered death notifications to families whose lives were torn apart when a drug intoxicated driver killed their loved one in a car crash. Specific to only individual use, criminal charges that can be expunged or dropped in exchange for sobriety, are an effective tool in protecting society and helping those who suffer from substance abuse find the motivation to address their addiction.
Question # 5: As a follow up question, did you support legislation in the 2022 session that drastically increased the criminal penalty for possession of any substance over 1g if that substance contains any amount of fentanyl?
Would you like to explain your response to question #5?
I’ve seen too many dead kids as a result of overdoses.
Question #6: Do you believe the State should invest more funding for mental health and substance use? If yes, please explain where you would want additional funding to be directed. If no, please explain why.
Yes, 100%. Police officers don’t want to be front line mental health workers, but the fact of the matter is, they are the resource of last resort for society. There are very few other mental health resources that actually provide services to people in need, when they need it. I’ve never had a Mobile Crisis Center be available when I needed it. Co-responders are a great idea, but the program is so severely underfunded that it’s basically ineffective. Having worked closely with Crisis Intervention programs, detoxification centers, the Jefferson Center for Mental Health, and numerous other mental health and substance abuse resources, I know where the breakdowns are, and how to get the resources to where they are needed, which is user level responders and people suffering from addiction.
Question #7: People needing care, supports, and services for their mental health and substance use often experience discrimination as a result of their health condition. Would you support legislation that would protect people needing care, supports, and services for their mental health and substance use conditions from discriminatory practices?
Would you like to explain your response to question #7?
The devil is in the details, but yes, I’m open to dialogue about specific and systemic issues.
Question #8: For too long the state’s criminal justice system has acted as a substitute for a comprehensive mental health care system. Would you support policies that would disentangle mental health from the criminal justice system and promote the expansion of programs like Denver’s STAR program?
Would you like to explain your response to question #8?
Again, the devil is in the details, but as I mentioned earlier, cops don’t want to be mental health providers. Increasing mental health resources would mean cops could focus on criminal issues, and a more robust mental health care system could take the workload for non-violent mental health specific issues away from law enforcement. I’m open to dialogue.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I know you’ll disagree with the details of some of my answers, but I also believe we have the same ultimate goal: improve society by providing mental health and substance abuse resources to those who need it. I have ten years of professional experience working on these issues. I want to share my perspective with you, and work together to find common ground. I’m submitting this survey, knowing you’ll disagree with some of my answers, as an olive branch of good faith and my intent to collaborate and find solutions.