Hickenlooper Announces Plan to Improve Colorado Mental Health System
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - On Monday, Governor Hickenlooper announced a new plan to strengthen Colorado's mental health system.
There's no doubt that the conversation about mental health in America has become hard to ignore.
"We have had some really horrific incidences with mass shootings where there seems to be an element of mental illness associated with the perpetrator," said Sharon Raggio, CEO of Colorado West Regional Mental Health.
The recent mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora prompted Gov. Hickenlooper to announce his five point plan to "Safeguard all Coloradans."
"We want to ensure that Colorado has a comprehensive and robust mental health system of supports and services and we're striving in Colorado to do a better jobs identifying dangerous people," said Reggie Bicha, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Human Services, "not that we can guarantee that they won't do harm to themselves or others but to keep more people from falling through the cracks."
The $18.5 million plan hopes to stream line civic commitment law by protecting those in a mental health crisis, but also giving more resources to professionals and law enforcement if there is a high probability that someone may danger themselves or others.
Real time data transfer for background checks is another key point.
"Currently records are sent via CD-ROM by the judiciary to the FBI's instant criminal background check system only twice per year. So if you're an individual under a mental health commitment, it's up to a six month block before that information gets relayed to the FBI and then to the CBI," said Bicha.
The proposition of jail based restoration not only aims to help those in the court system suffering from mental issues, but also essentially frees up space in hospitals.
"Many times the jails end up being the default psychiatric hospitals, Colorado as a state is the last in this country for the number of psychiatric hospital beds that exist in Colorado," said Raggio.
There is also a push to enhance community support and services to minimize the stigma of mental illnesses and also help with a patients transition back into their community.
"The science of mental health and substance use disorder treatment has evolved tremendously, we know today that treatment works," said Raggio.
Most proposals were included in Gov. Hickenlooper's recent budget, but the General Assemble will review the entire plan through the spring, with the benefits being implemented as soon as July 1.