Colorado Leaders Call for Action to Address Urgent Statewide Mental Health Needs

From the Equitas Project

Individuals with mental health and substance use concerns need access to earlier support and care, rather than criminalization and punishment.

April 3, 2019 – (DENVER, COLO.) – Colorado leaders in mental health and criminal justice jointly address the state’s mental health crisis and list urgent priorities for reforms, in a co-authored statement released yesterday co-authored by more than fifty key stakeholders from agencies across the state in acknowledging that Coloradans with mental health needs are “too often neglected, stigmatized, or inadequately supported.”

Referring to the vast scope of poor outcomes associated with unmet mental health and substance use concerns, the authors agree: “failure to attend to these health needs results in premature death, injury, substance use and addiction, long-term disability, and many other preventable threats to public safety and wellbeing.”

While praising the significant and laudable efforts of some communities and partners around the state to address these issues, Vincent Atchity, Executive Director of The Equitas Project described this document as “a call to action for all Coloradans.”

“Leaders and members of every community in the state must take this crisis seriously and shift resources and efforts toward mental health and public health interventions which are preventative and supportive, rather than punitive,” he said.

The Colorado Course Corrections document calls for “an urgent and immediate shift in awareness, and rebalancing of effort and investment across multiple stakeholders who share accountability” for the health and safety of all Coloradans.

The list of priorities includes:

  • Investing in early childhood mental health awareness and support in schools
  • Implementing a world-class addiction, pain management, and mental health treatment system
  • Increasing access to medication assisted treatment programs for addiction
  • Expanding the use of psychiatric advance directives
  • Redirecting people toward health care and minimizing arrests
  • Ending the use of jails for drug and alcohol detox