Dr. Patrick Fox, Colorado Office of Behavioral Health
We are such big fans of SB 21 which came out of the Legislative Oversight Committee regarding People with Mental Illness in the Criminal Justice System. The bill would provide $2.7 million in housing and supportive housing re-entry services for people with mental illness re-entering the community from jails and prisons. While our advocacy efforts are focused on behalf of people with "mental illness" who are homeless and/or incarcerated because we feel people finding themselves in that situation have been so grossly neglected by traditional systems, we also support SB 68 which would make it easier for elementary schools to hire mental health professionals, etc. The State has been engaged in many efforts to improve the situation of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system through the Colorado Department of Human Services, largely spearheaded by Office of Behavioral Health Clinical Director Dr. Patrick Fox. We have tried to acknowledge them and we would be wrong not to -- they are of immense importance. We are going to take this opportunity to mention an aspect of the national debate over the years we really haven't concentrated too much on. Sometimes with limited resources -- and there are always limited resources -- the argument is made, "Well, we're just going to have to write the adults off, and put our resources in the children." We have to support people across the life span. If we are not supporting the parents we're hurting the kids.
Mental Health Colorado
Andrew Romanoff, President & CEO of Mental Health Colorado
Two of the bills slated for action at the State Capitol take aim at mental illness, from different directions. Senate Bill 21 would provide housing assistance and reentry services for Coloradans who have serious mental health or substance use disorders and are transitioning from incarceration. Such programs reduce homelessness and recidivism. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Beth Martinez Humenik (R-Thornton), Senate Bill 68 would make it easier for elementary schools to hire mental health professionals, train staff on substance use prevention, and connect students to counseling and treatment. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Nancy Todd (D-Aurora).