What counties do you represent? If this is a statewide office, please put statewide.
I represent HD 50 which is in Weld County.
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?
I came to the legislature to improve mental health care for Coloradans especially youth in schools and their families. This focus also included early childhood since I spent a great deal of my work as a school psychologist at that level. I participated in the Governor’s Behavioral Health Task Force which began in 2019 and continued through the pandemic. As a result of my participation, especially on the youth subcommittee I became the co-prime sponsor of the Behavioral Health Administration (BHA) bills which are designed to provide significant improvements for behavioral health services in Colorado including school services. It is important to be vigilant as the BHA develops, that we are fulfilling our promises. Schools, teachers are reporting current improvements in access to services, but it is also important to ensure these improvements in access continue after the federal dollars are expended. I also sponsored other MH bills including a bullying prevention bill HB21-1221 since decreasing bullying in schools has a positive impact on youth mental health.
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.
I believe that mental health and substance use disorders are serious issues that need continued legislative attention and action. I hold these beliefs based on what I am hearing from my constituents as I knock on doors, feedback about the bills I have passed, talks with school personnel and my professional experience and relationships. We have passed some significant legislation but we need to continue to be vigilant that we continue to eliminate the lack of access to effective treatment for behavioral health issues. A lack of access to treatment leads to individuals being involved in school discipline or the legal system instead of effective treatment.
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?
Colorado’s red flag law- extreme protection orders- have proven to be effective. Following legal procedures, the safety of individuals, their families and the community has been maintained using these orders.
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?
I do not believe in increasing penalties for people using drugs for personal use is the answer to reducing/eliminating overdose deaths. I did approve the changing the weight cut points for fentanyl for distribution.
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 voted for the legislation because of the significant scope of harm reduction that was included in the bill and accompanying funding. The bill also includes funding for those in the judicial system.
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.
I think we need to continue to increase funding for mental health and substance use. Among other things I want funding to continue for successful programs after the federal dollars are spent. This funding needs to include early childhood through 12 in public schools. We need to make sure that we are adequately funding the BHA so the priority populations services are being adequately funded. We need to continue to increase youth and adult access to mental health services and substance use disorder treatment. We need to make sure we are funding programs that treat the previously underserved including but not limited to communities of color, individuals from the LGBTQ + community, those who are linguistically diverse, etc. We also need to fund efforts to increase the number of providers who can provide treatment that reflect the diversity of Coloradans.
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?
I certainly would support legislation that prohibits discriminatory practices. We need to continue to work to end discrimination for those with mental health and substance use disorders. In concert with that we need to continue to educate the public to understand that these are health conditions like any other. We wouldn’t tolerate discrimination for someone with diabetes or any other health condition.
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?
It is unconscionable how many people with mental health care needs are in the criminal justice system instead of in their community receiving treatment. When we de-institionalized mental health care, as we should have, we have never funded it at the level necessary. As a result individuals with unmet needs end up in the criminal justice system and once they are there don’t receive adequate treatment. The correspondent models and the programs like Denver’s STAR program are key to solving this problem. We have a model in Weld County that has proven to be very effective and we need to establish a funding stream that isn’t dependent on grants.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
I am committed to improving mental health treatment for all of those Coloradans who too often can’t access the care they need. I have benefited from working with Mental Health Colorado and hope to continue that work.