What counties do you represent? If this is a statewide office, please put statewide.
House District 37 is in Arapahoe 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?
Colorado is worst in the country for mental illness, 1st in teen suicide, and has a significant, and growing issue with youth use of marijuana, cocaine, and other very harmful drugs. Left untreated, the cost of future treatment and mitigation will be much higher than engaging when a person is younger.
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.
Yes. See above. We are the model for every other state of what not to become. We are losing too many kids way, way too early and we have many, whom we do not lose, but, are suffering.
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?
A recent article, however, in the Denver Post, reported on a Colorado study that shows that red flag laws have had little impact on preventing harm by some to others.
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?
In a recent, and detailed conversation with the chief of a large metro Denver Police force, and in a conversation with an FBI Colorado leader, there is a blurred line between use and dealing. Many dealers, arrested for dealing, claim they were possessing, not dealing, so they walk. The legislation (1263 I think) that decriminalized Fentanyl possession, clearly led to an increase of 6X in Fentanyl deaths. The “fix” to the original legislation (1360?) in 2022 session, reduced the amount a Fentanyl possession resulting in arrest and possible conviction, from 4 grams to 1 gram. That bill will do nothing to protect Coloradans, and in fact, Fentanyl overdose deaths in 2022 are outpacing the tragedies of 2021. So, I think the answer to this question requires a lot more nuance than your question allows. Whether there is a penalty for possession vs. dealing, should consider, which drug, the danger of the specific drug, the amount possessed, and seeking to discover, whether the possessor, was possessing only to use or was possessing to use and to deal.
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?
Yes, as opposed to no action at all. But, 1360 did not go nearly far enough. 1 G is too much to allow. That bill is having no effect.
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. I want increasing funding for early intervention and prevention of drug use by those under 21 – including those using marijuana. The harms of marijuana use by teens are becoming well established with the explosion of marijuana use by high school and middle school kids. Drug use in general is rising significantly amongst our children. Cocaine has become a party drug for high schools. The dangers and harm of drug use should be taught consistently, and early. Mental health resources need to be increased for children. Causes of our epidemic of mental health issues should be studied, identified, and where possible prevented. Treatment should begin early, upon detection. Families should be involved in detection and treatment.
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?
For people needing mental health care – yes. Legal protections for people with mental illness, would be appropriate if such persons are engaging in treatment. For people with substance addiction – no. I have seen, first hand, too many times, the significant deleterious effects of employing people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
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?
The idealistic answer is “yes.” But, the idealistic answer has, at times, resulted in harm to the public. Denver’s STAR program has resulted in positive outcomes for “low level 911 calls.” Your question does not differentiate between, “high level” calls and “low level calls.” That differentiation is necessary before rendering a Yes or No answer to your question. Mental Health professionals, I am told, do not want to respond to “high level” 911 calls. They are not trained, equipped or prepared for such confrontations. Denver Police Department, has significantly invested in training its officers in effective response where mental health is an exacerbating factor.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
The state has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the last few legislative sessions into upgrading our behavioral health capacities. That is a promising starting point but by no means the end of the matter. The last couple years – COVID, recession, inflation and economic challenge, political strife – have collectively stressed this entire country and I hope as a result we are all collectively more inclined to engage in creating solutions.