By: JoAnne Busing

September 12, 2018

Mental Health Colorado is an organization founded in 1973. “Their purpose is to advocate for the more than one million Coloradans who experience a mental health or substance abuse disorder each year. They engage policy makers, providers, the public and the press to promote intervention, expand access to affordable services and eradicate the stigma and discrimination that is often put on people with mental health problems,” as stated on their web page.

Andrew Romanoff, President and CEO of this organization, said he has a very personal reason as to why he is involved. Three years ago, his cousin, whom he felt was his sister, committed suicide. Romanoff had celebrated New Year’s Eve with her parents and his cousin and later that evening she took her own life. No one knew she was depressed and in the note she left, she asked that they list her cause of death as a car accident. She felt that the whole family would be looked upon badly because of her suicide.

People with mental health issues often feel the same way. They feel they are looked down on and are not worthy to be treated as others. Mental health problems are a medical condition and can be helped. The biggest problem for many people with mental health problems is the cost and the ability to find professional help.

In many rural areas, including Washington County, it is hard to find professional help that people can afford. The community has Centennial Mental Health and there are a few private therapists in northeast Colorado, but many people do not have the necessary resources needed to obtain that help.

Some of those resources include the financial aspect of the help, transportation to reach therapists, seeing if your medical insurance may cover treatment and trying to find someone to help you at an hour when you can go. If you are working, most people cannot go during the day, as they need that money to support themselves and their families.

Romanoff said, “The goal of Mental Health Colorado is to get that necessary help for everybody. More than 500,000 people in Colorado alone are not getting the help they need. We are working to change public opinion and have them realize that a mental illness is not a character flaw, but a treatable medical condition. We need the public’s understanding and we need to do everything we can to erase the stigma of mental illness.”

Colorado also has one of the highest rates for suicide in the nation. About 1,100 people in Colorado commit suicide each year. Romanoff would like to see that number decease to none, but if that doesn’t happen, he hopes to make a big dent in the number of Coloradans who taken their own life.

One of their goals to help with both mental illness, substance abuse and suicide is the newest group they have formed. They are trying to find at least one advocate who will speak to groups, visit schools, talk to policy makers, work with counseling organization and do what they can to get the word out about all the problems ingrained with mental illness and substance abuse. They are called “Brain Waves” and are very passionate about this problem and feel the need to help.

Mental Health Colorado has developed a tool kit to take into schools. “Mental health problems often begin at a young age and we would like to see schools become a big help in recognizing problems and getting help for the students,” Romanoff said. If you might be interested in helping in some way, go to The faster this problem can be addressed and more sources are available, the sooner more than 500,000 Coloradans can receive help.

Originally appeared in Akron-News Reporter.