LAWMAKER PUSHES BILLS TO HELP CHILDREN SUFFERING FROM MENTAL ILLNESS
By: Shaun Boyn, CBS4 Denver
May 8, 2018
DENVER (CBS4) – The state legislature will wrap up the 2018 session Wednesday. Among the issues getting a lot of attention this year was mental illness.
Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. Lawmakers introduced nearly 40 bills covering a wide range of mental health issues including substance abuse.
One of the lawmakers carrying the bills understands the issue first hand. Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a Democrat from Commerce City, says her son attempted suicide when he was just 9 years old.
“The help wasn’t there. I didn’t have someone to go to to tell me where I could get appropriate mental health care for my son,” she said.
Other parents now will. A bill that creates a state ombudsman to help people navigate the system is headed to the governor’s desk. It’s part of a slate of mental health care bills Michaelson Jenet has carried.
“I hear these stories every single day at the doors. This is not an isolated incident. This is happening in families all around our state,” she said. “People feel like nobody understands them. I get that. I completely get that.”
The new office will also collect data to help identify where the state is falling short.
“Where are there holes in care? Where are there holes in coverage? Where are there holes in access?” asked Michaelson Janet.
It’s a start, but she says, we have a long way to go. Another one of her bills aimed at preventing youth suicide by giving middle school kids access to therapists without their parents’ permission failed on the same day an East High School student took her life.
“Sometimes, you know what, you wake up in the morning and say ‘why am I doing this?’ But at end of day I can’t look at my son and say (A) I didn’t fight for you as humanely possible and (B) one time he said to me when I asked if I could tell his story, he said ‘I think other children will be upset that I’m getting help and they’re not.’ It’s not just about my child.”
Mental Health Colorado championed many bills this session. Among the other legislation that passed is a bill that establishes a compact to allow psychologists licensed in other states to practice on a limited basis here and a bill providing grants to schools to develop suicide prevention programs.
Among the failures was a bill focused on taking guns away from those who are mentally unstable.
Originally appeared on CBS4.