What counties do you represent? If this is a statewide office, please put statewide.
Adams and Jefferson Counties
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?
It is critical that we invest resources to support our youth so they can thrive socially, emotionally and academically. Having low or no-cost mental health services available in our schools has been proven to have a positive impact on not only students, but has also helped to provide a safety net or support structure for their parents or caregivers. I am highly supportive of any measure that supports the holistic wellbeing of children and their families.
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. I have had numerous conversations with educators and school administrators in my district who have spoken about the lack of mental health supports for students and how all of the resulting challenges are felt in classrooms. I have friends who are unable to find mental health support for themselves and family members because there are not enough providers. I know from conversations with my police department and district attorney that substance abuse and addiction issues are driving crime and tragedy for an increasing number of people each year. As a community, we must do better and our state must be a supportive partner in this effort.
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?
Yes, I helped to pass and am a cosponsor of Colorado’s extreme risk protection order law. The debate was rigorous around this issue, but I do believe this was one of the single most impactful things we’ve ever done as a state to engage a large and diverse community to help end gun violence in Colorado. I believe giving local law enforcement the ability to intervene in this way, and remove guns, has saved lives and I stand behind this legislation. I applaud any law enforcement official and friend or family member who has called upon the use of the Red Flag law to prevent violence in their home or their community.
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 that a purely punitive approach is warranted in all situations and applaud local municipalities who have launched robust mental health co-responder programs with both public safety and fire agencies. In my opinion, putting these practitioners out into the field changes the dynamic of the initial response and opens the doors for appropriate interventions and supports to be offered. We need to change the narrative around drug abuse and addiction as one that is medical and not criminal.
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?
The 2022 fentanyl legislation included many important necessary tools to help Colorado deal with its fentanyl crisis. The bill appropriated over $30 million to fund important harm reduction efforts, including the purchase and distribution of Naloxone, fentanyl testing strips, substance use disorder treatment and an education campaign, whereby CDPHE will now have the resources to educate Coloradans on the deadly impact of fentanyl. Importantly, the bill also includes enhanced criminal sentencing that targets dealers and enables prosecutors to hold dealers accountable when they distribute drugs and cause innocent people to die from a deadly fentanyl overdose.
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! Additional investments for mental health is something that can help not just with substance use and abuse, but the overall physical and mental well-being of Coloradans young and old. I prioritize funding for prevention, first by increasing the availability of mental health services and supports in schools and early childhood settings and second increasing funding for substance treatment programs. We must address the severe lack of in-patient care programs for those who want to end the cycle of substance abuse, and to do so we need to make investments to be both preventative and proactive.
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?
We must dismantle systems that prevent individuals from seeking help and receiving aid in a safe and secure environment. I fully support efforts for increased training around DEI principles and practices to end discrimination against any person.
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?
Yes, and I believe that public safety professionals agree that jails are not treatment centers. We must offer front-line support to law enforcement in the form of trained professionals, such as the Denver STAR program, to offer appropriate interventions and support. These programs have proven effective and are spreading to municipalities (including my own city of Westminster) across the state from firefighters to police departments and we need to continue to promote their growth.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
No thank you, but thank you for this opportunity to provide my responses to these questions.