I am a lifelong Democrat who has lived in Colorado for almost 50 years. In the last 25 years, I raised three sons, owned and operated a successful manufacturing business (Polar Bottle), and advocated for the things I care about.
One of my sons has a serious mental illness. Like far too many parents, I know the despair of trying to access mental health services in a broken system. The costs and consequences are devastating to people, families, and society at large.
We must address the stigma and shame of mental illness. Mental illness is not a character flaw. Period.
People with mental illness should not be jailed or left to fend for themselves on the streets. This is not how we would treat patients with any other disease. Criminalizing mental illness is immoral, expensive, and ineffective. Statewide diversion programs, trained co-responders, and changes to our M1 hold system can help. We also must have supportive housing.
Mental illness must have parity with physical health. There are parity laws on the books, but parity does not exist. We need serious oversight from the regulatory agencies including fines and penalties for failure to comply. We must insist that mental health professionals and not insurance companies determine patient treatment.
We have to approach mental wellness throughout a person’s life. Every wellness visit to a doctor should include a mental health screening, starting with infants through school age children and beyond. Too often, problems are identified and treated episodically. Effective mental health care requires continuity, just as other chronic diseases like infant cardiac disease or preteen diabetes do.